Members of Congress and Health Advocates Speak Out on the “Silent Diseases” Hepatitis B & Hepatitis C
July 22, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
[Archive] Stacy Lavilla
Director of Communications
(510) 272-9536 x110
Washington, DC—Demonstrating their long-held commitment to the elimination of hepatitis B and C yesterday, Reps. Honda, Cao, Cassidy, Dent and Edwards gathered with more than 70 other people on Capitol Hill to learn about and get tested for the two serious diseases. The public event, which provided free hepatitis testing, educational materials, and counseling services, was initiated by the Chinese American Medical Society, in partnership with the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO) and several other health advocacy groups*.
“Yesterday’s screening event was an important milestone,” said Jeff Caballero, executive director of AAPCHO. “It marks the beginning of a unified effort between the hepatitis B & C community and our congressional champions, working together to tackle our national legislative challenges. After we’ve accomplished our legislative goals towards eliminating these diseases, we will all be able to say that it started here, with this event on Capitol Hill and others like it around the country.”
A Silent Disease with a Deadly Impact
Chronic viral hepatitis is a highly contagious virus that infects the liver, causing liver disease, liver cancer, and premature death. Although hepatitis B and C are treatable diseases when detected early and properly managed, an estimated 4.6 million people living in the United States are currently infected with either hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Both are considered “silent diseases” because frequently, those infected have no obvious symptoms. Without proper screening and treatment, viral hepatitis patients frequently die from liver cancer or liver disease and can pass the infection on to others.
Reducing Disparities and Empowering Vulnerable Communities
There are serious disparities in infection rates among many minority communities. For example, in the U.S., as many as 1 in 10 Asian Pacific Islander Americans are chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C infection is 2 to 3 times more prevalent among African Americans as it is among Caucasians.
Congressman David Wu (OR-01), a co-host of the event, views yesterday’s screening as a step towards reducing disparities through education and action: “When it comes to maintaining your health, knowledge is power…It is vital that people take advantage of opportunities to get tested for hepatitis B. Testing is essential to early detection and appropriate treatment.”
Congressman Charlie Dent (PA-15) praised Tuesday’s event as also a valuable chance “for lawmakers and their staff to learn more about hepatitis, be educated about hepatitis testing, and demonstrate Congress’s commitment to the elimination of chronic viral hepatitis.”
Framing hepatitis B&C awareness within the broader discussion on health care, Congressman Anh “Joseph” Cao (LA-02) pointed out “[as] Congress works to achieve national health care reform, it is vital that preventive health care is part of the debate. Hepatitis B and C are treatable illnesses when detected early, and today’s event is a tremendous opportunity to educate the American people on the ability they have to either reduce or prevent the progression of this disease.”
“The valuable role that AAPCHO and its partnering organizations undertake in educating the public on preventing, diagnosing and treating chronic hepatitis B and C is an important component in addressing the overall health of our communities, and work of increasing interest as Congress continues to deliberate on comprehensive health care reform legislation,” acknowledged Congresswoman Madeline Bordallo, Chair of the Health Task Force of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
*Participating organizations include: Hepatitis B Foundation; Caring Ambassadors Program; Hepatitis Education Project; Hepatitis B Initiative-DC; National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD); and the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR).
AAPCHO is a national association representing 27 community health organizations dedicated to promoting advocacy, collaboration and leadership that improves the health status and access of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders in the United States. Since 1987, AAPCHO has advocated for policies and programs that improve the provision of health care services that are community driven, financially affordable, linguistically accessible, and culturally appropriate.
For more information on AAPCHO and its Guiding Principles and Values, please visit http://www.aapcho.org. AAPCHO can also be found on Facebook, at www.facebook.com/aapcho.