Tomorrow, May 19, 2012, marks the inaugural National Hepatitis Testing Day. The event comes one year after the Department of Health and Human Services announced its Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis. Hepatitis B and C disproportionately impact racial and ethnic minorities including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, who comprise over half of the known Hepatitis B cases in the United States. Members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) released the following statements to mark the occasion:
Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA-32), CAPAC Chair: "Hepatitis B has for far too long been the silent killer of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. While we make up only six percent of the U.S. population, we account for more than half of all cases of chronic Hepatitis B infections. I have personally lost close friends and family members to viral hepatitis, losses that are made even more tragic by the fact that these death could have been fully prevented by treatments and vaccines that have been available for years. As we approach the first ever Hepatitis Testing Day this Saturday, I urge Asian American and Pacific Islanders - and all who are susceptible to the disease - to get tested and put this silent killer to rest."
Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-09), CAPAC Healthcare Taskforce Chair: "As Chair of the Health Care Task Force for CAPAC and a proud new member of the Hepatitis Caucus, I encourage everyone to get tested and know their status. More than four million Americans are living with hepatitis and up to 75% do not know that they are infected. The low rates of healthcare coverage and an ongoing lack of access to linguistically and culturally appropriate care makes it that much more important for everyone in the AAPI community to take charge of their health and mark Hepatitis Testing Day by getting tested!"
Senator Daniel Akaka (HI): "Viral hepatitis is a serious health concern within the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities. Despite representing only six percent of the population, Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders account for over half of the 1,400,000 domestic cases of hepatitis B. We can address this issue head-on through increased awareness, prevention, and screening for this disease. A simple blood test for hepatitis can reduce the risk of transmission through education and vaccination of household members and other persons at risk for infection. Early diagnosis of viral hepatitis also allows individuals to make simple behavioral changes that can significantly slow disease progression."
Congressman Mike Honda (CA-15), CAPAC Chair Emeritus: "The inaugural National Viral Hepatitis Testing Day is a clarion call for people at risk to be tested, for health care providers to educate patients about hepatitis, and to re-invigorate the national conversation about this deadly disease. This "silent killer" infects over five million Americans, but 75% of those infected do not know they have the disease. As CAPAC Chair Emeritus, I know the devastating impact of this disease in our AAPI community, wherein, half of Hepatitis B victims are AAPIs. This is why I have made legislating a response to the hepatitis epidemic one of my top priorities in Congress. Last year, I joined my colleagues, Congressmen Cassidy, Johnson, and Dent, and Senator Kerry, to introduce the Viral Hepatitis Testing Act, a bi-partisan bill that will finally turn the tide in this war. It is also why, in honor of the inaugural Testing Day, I have founded the Congressional Hepatitis Caucus to organize and educate policymakers on Capitol Hill. Armed with new allies and new tools, this Saturday, May 19th we sound the alarm-louder than ever before-on this silent killer. In honor of those 15,000 American who die each year from Hepatitis-related infections, we break the silence and we fight back."
Congressman Adam Schiff (CA-29): "Chronic Hepatitis B is a highly contagious virus that affects 1.25 million Americans, and one in ten Asian Americans. Hep B, a silent killer that causes little symptoms, may destroy the liver over time and can also cause liver cancer. This disease is one of the biggest health problems in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. Protect yourself and others by getting tested today."
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-32): "National Hepatitis Testing Day is a reminder of the importance of getting tested and taking charge of your health. Although an estimated 3.5-5.3 million Americans are living with the disease, many have no idea they are infected, increasing the likelihood that they will unknowingly spread it to others. The first step to ending this silent epidemic is getting tested."
Background: In the next ten years, about 150,000 people in the United States are projected to die from liver cancer and liver disease associated with chronic Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C infections. It is estimated that 3.5-5.3 million people are living with chronic Hepatitis B or C infections. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders comprise more than half of the known Hepatitis B population in the United States and consequently maintain the highest rate of Hepatitis B-related liver cancer incidences among all ethnic groups. AAPIs are also 7 times more likely to die from Hepatitis B than whites.
For more information about viral Hepatitis, please refer to the resources below from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: