Retired California school teacher Mikkel Lawrence sits with his cat, Max. Lawrence has hepatitis C and has struggled to afford the medicine he needs to treat it. April Dembosky/KQED hide caption

itoggle caption April Dembosky/KQED

Austin, Indiana's needle exchange program is open for business this week, but health workers worry the program will be tough to quickly replicate in other counties. Darron Cummings/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Darron Cummings/AP

Volunteer Patrick Pezzati searches yards in Turners Falls, Mass., for discarded heroin needles. Karen Brown/WFCR hide caption

itoggle caption Karen Brown/WFCR

Volunteers search for needles and other drug paraphernalia along Church Street in Austin, Ind., in April. The region has recorded 142 new HIV cases since December, according to the state, in an outbreak tied to injected-opioid use. Seth Herald/Nurphoto/Corbis hide caption

itoggle caption Seth Herald/Nurphoto/Corbis

The hepatitis C medication Sovaldi, from Gilead Sciences, costs $1,000 per pill. It's just one of the new medications introduced in the past year that can cure the disease within weeks or months. Courtesy of Gilead Sciences via AP hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy of Gilead Sciences via AP

The newly approved Harvoni tablets bring several advances to the fight against hepatitis C, but they also have a steep price tag, reported at $1,125 for a single dose. Gilead Sciences hide caption

itoggle caption Gilead Sciences

Walter Bianco's liver is severely damaged by hepatitis C, but insurers had refused to pay for the medications that could cure him. Alexandra Olgin for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Alexandra Olgin for NPR

Walter Bianco's liver is severely damaged by hepatitis C, but insurers had refused to pay for the medications that could cure him. Alexandra Olgin for NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Alexandra Olgin for NPR

Advocates demonstrate in favor of cheaper generic drugs to treat hepatitis C in New Delhi on March 21. The disease is common among people who are HIV positive. Saurabh Das/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Saurabh Das/AP

A girl with hepatitis C holds a medical report while being treated at a hospital in Hefei, China, in 2011. China has one of the greatest burdens of hepatitis C, but it's still not clear whether a deal for lower prices for a new drug from Gilead Sciences will apply there. Barcroft Media/Landov hide caption

itoggle caption Barcroft Media/Landov

Timothy Webb and other advocates protest the cost of HIV drugs manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Gilead outside an AIDS conference in Atlanta in March. Gilead is making a new hepatitis C drug, Sovaldi. John Amis/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation hide caption

itoggle caption John Amis/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation

A colorized closeup of the hepatitis C virus. James Cavallini/Science Source hide caption

itoggle caption James Cavallini/Science Source