Maine health officials on Monday unveiled a statewide testing program for hepatitis C, which has infected an estimated 15,000 state residents. The program includes efforts to increase education about the disease through free counseling, a state Bureau of Health Web site and radio and TV public service announcements. Officials say that fewer than 10 percent of people with hepatitis C are aware they are infected. The disease has been reported almost twice as frequently among men than women in Maine, and almost 70 percent of reported cases have been among people in their 30s and 40s. A $75,000 contribution from the Maine Health Access Foundation will make free testing and counseling available for high-risk patients at 22 locations in 12 Maine counties. The program, which also includes the opening of a hepatitis C treatment center at Maine Medical Center in Portland, grew out of collaboration between the hospital and health officials from Portland and the state.
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