Every third prisoner has Hepatitis C. Joe was one of those infected with this potentially fatal viral infection of the liver.
He was first told that he had Hepatitis C in the late 1990s, when he was at Tomoka Correctional Institution in Daytona Beach. At that time it was not the policy of the Florida Department of Corrections to treat prisoners with Hepatitis C. Available treatments were considered too expensive for mere prisoners. Joe too was not offered any treatment, nor was he told that the condition would worsen over time without treatment. More than once, in fact, he was told the outright lie that there is no cure for Hepatitis C. He was told the same things in 2004 and subsequently following his transfer to Union Correctional Institution.
In November 2017, denouncing 'a long and sordid history of neglect,' US District Court Judge Mark Walker ordered the Florida DOC to change its policy. He ruled that prisoners who test positive for Hepatitis C must be treated with direct-acting antiviral drugs. This resulted in Joe undergoing a course of treatment with such drugs from May to August 2018. Follow-up examinations showed that the virus had been successfully eliminated.
However, the treatment had come too late to save Joe’s life. Due to the extremely long delay in treatment, Joe had developed advanced fibrosis (scarring) of the liver. This has now led to Cirrhosis, which unlike Hepatitis C really is incurable, although medical science is able to control some of the distressing symptoms.
The first stage of Cirrhosis is free of symptoms. On August 28 the first sign has appeared that Joe has now passed to a more advanced stage of the disease -- two hematomas in the form of purple-maroon splotches of bruising just below the skin on his lower right arm, indicating internal bleeding.