USM Veterans Center Stresses Importance of Free Hepatitis C Testing

USM Veterans Center Stresses Importance of Free Hepatitis C Testing

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The following is a news release from The University of Southern Mississippi

The University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Veterans, Service Members, and Families is helping spread the word about a statewide initiative that will provide free Hepatitis C testing to enrolled veterans born between 1945-1965.

The Mississippi Community Veterans Engagement Board (MS-CVEB), in coordination with the G. V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson and the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System in Biloxi, has launched the program that will include testing at various sites across Mississippi and the Gulf South region on June 13.

"Hepatitis C is a horrific disease affecting up to 17 percent of our veterans, and most don't even know they have it," said Maj. Gen. (U.S. Army-ret.) Jeff Hammond, who serves as the USM center's director and also as MS-CVEB chairman. "I'm going to be tested, to set an example, and I plead with members of our community to find a veteran and encourage him or her to participate in this testing."

Hammond points out that the VA will provide no cost care for those who test positive (12-week medicine protocol) which, to date, has proven 95 percent successful.

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation, sometimes leading to serious liver damage. The hepatitis C virus spreads through contaminated blood. The virus is spread primarily by blood-to-blood contact associated with intravenous drug use, poorly sterilized medical equipment, needlestick injuries in healthcare, and transfusions.

A Department of Veterans Affairs study shows that new drug regimens for Hepatitis C have resulted in "remarkably high" cure rates among patients in VA's national health care system. Since Jan. 1, 2014, the G. V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center in Jackson has treated a total of 450 Veterans with rates of cure exceeding 90 percent.

Medical staff will provide walk-in testing for eligible veterans enrolled in VA health care, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the following locations:

G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center, 1500 E. Woodrow Wilson Dr., Jackson

Columbus VA Community-Based Clinic, 824 Alabama Street, Columbus

Greenville VA Community-Based Clinic, 1502 S. Colorado Street, Greenville

Hattiesburg VA Community-Based Clinic, 5003 Hardy Street, Tower B, Suite 402, Hattiesburg

Kosciusko VA Community-Based Clinic, 405 West Adams, Kosciusko

McComb VA Community-Based Clinic, 1308 Harrison Avenue, McComb

Meridian VA Community-Based Clinic, 2103 13th Street, Meridian

Natchez VA Community-Based Clinic, 105 Northgate Drive, Suite 2, Natchez

Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System; 400 Veterans Avenue; Biloxi, MS

Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System-Eglin Community Based Outpatient Clinic; 100 Veterans Way; Eglin AFB, FL

Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System-Joint Ambulatory Care Center; 790 Veterans Way; Pensacola, FL

Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System-Mobile; 1504 Springhill Ave; Mobile, AL

Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System-Panama City Outpatient Clinic; 2600 Veterans Way (along Magnolia Beach Road); Panama City Beach, FL

For eligible veterans who are not enrolled in VA health care, VA staff will be on site to initiate enrollment, or veterans may call 855-574-7286 to complete an enrollment application, or visit a nearest VA medical center or clinic. Veterans can also enroll online at