By Christine Rodriguez
Public Policy Manager
National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable
World Hepatitis Day, on July 28, is an annual reminder of the fight that remains to battle this global killer. Around the world, viral hepatitis --
primarily hepatitis B and C -- kills as many people as HIV/AIDS, and in the United States, hepatitis C-related liver illnesses are both a leading cause of
death for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and independently surpassed HIV/AIDS deaths in 2007. As one of the communities disproportionately affected by
viral hepatitis, at least 25% of PLWHA also have hepatitis C, and about 10% are co-infected with hepatitis B.
Despite having an effective vaccine and treatment for hepatitis B, and a cure -- with regimens becoming shorter and less toxic -- for hepatitis C, the
epidemic continues unabated. Not only are five million people living with viral hepatitis in the United States, but a hepatitis C epidemic is now emerging
among youth under 30 who inject drugs. World Hepatitis Day should serve to remind us that, in a country that claims to have the best health care system in
the world, this is absolutely unacceptable. While US pharmaceutical companies have recently delivered exciting new testing and treatment options (with more
to come), there has yet to be a comprehensive and adequately resourced federal response.
Viral hepatitis also disproportionately affects communities of color (including African Americans, Latinos, Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, and
Native Americans), people who engage in injection drug use, military veterans, and the “baby boomer” generation (born from 1945-1965). With most cases
presenting no symptoms, and inadequate testing and provider understanding of viral hepatitis, an estimated 65-75% of those living with viral hepatitis do
not know their status, earning it the moniker “the silent epidemic.” Over decades, the liver can be damaged to the point of cirrhosis, advanced stage liver
disease, or liver cancer. Liver cancer is one of the most aggressive cancers, and the number two cancer killer in the world.
This doesn’t have to be our reality. World Hepatitis Day is an annual opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to ending the viral hepatitis epidemic, and
display leadership equal to the potential of our considerable resources. The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) is committed to this goal through
its programmatic and policy advocacy work on behalf of its 200+ member organizations. Included among the policy issues NVHR addresses are implementing new
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force hepatitis B and C testing recommendations, removing barriers to treatment access; increasing federal resources for
screening, vaccination, education, and linkage to care; and access to evidence-based harm reduction strategies to improve drug user health, including
lifting the ban on federal funding for syringe services programs. On the program side, we are working with community organizations, public health
departments, and medical providers to expand their capacity to test “baby boomers” for hepatitis C.
In commemoration of the 2014 campaign, “World Hepatitis Day: Think again,” we urge you to do just that -- think again. Think again about viral hepatitis,
about prevention for yourself and your community, and about joining the fight to end this epidemic.
If you’re interested in more information about viral hepatitis, or how you or your organization can get involved in policy change, check out the links
Free membership in NVHR is open to organizations supporting our mission! Join at: http://nvhr.org/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&id=1
Don’t represent an organization? Find us on Facebook (
) or Follow us on Twitter (https://twitter.com/nvhr1) for the latest news in viral hepatitis and opportunities to
Support the World Hepatitis Alliance’s Thunderclap by July 28 to spread the word: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/12255-hepatitis-think-again
Encourage your representatives to support the Viral Hepatitis Testing Act! To learn how to contact your Representative in the House regarding HR.3723, or
your Senators regarding S.2538, follow this link: http://nvhr.org/content/policy/legislation.
More information about viral hepatitis from CDC at: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/
Are you at risk? Use this CDC Hepatitis Risk Assessment to find out: http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/RiskAssessment/
Find a testing location here: http://hepcchallenge.org/hcv-testing-locations/
Posted By: Christine Rodriguez, Public Policy Manager, National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable - Friday, July 25, 2014