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World Hepatitis Day Rally at U.S. Capitol
Attracts Hundreds

Hepatitis B Foundation Calls for Increased Federal Funding to Improve the Lives of More than 5 Million Americans Suffering from Chronic Hepatitis B and C Infections

Doylestown, PA (May 2010) – The Hepatitis B Foundation (HBF) recognized World Hepatitis Day on May 19, 2010 by co-organizing the first national rally dedicated to chronic hepatitis and liver cancer in Washington, DC with the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable. An estimated 450 people traveled to the nation’s Capitol by bus, train and plane to raise the noise level about chronic viral hepatitis that afflicts more than 5 million Americans and to call upon the U.S. government to increase federal funding to address this silent but deadly epidemic.

“Each one of you at this rally represents at least 1 million people who cannot be here themselves today,” said Dr. Timothy Block, president of the Hepatitis B Foundation. “We cannot be silent anymore. There have been woefully inadequate federal resources provided to address the continued frequency of new infections and the needs of those suffering from chronic hepatitis B and C infections. We need to do more now in order to save 150,000 American lives over the next decade”

Three Members of Congress attended the rally – Mike Honda (CA-D), Charles Dent (PA-R) and Dr. Bill Cassidy (LA-R) – and all three spoke about the importance of HR 3974 (Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Prevention and Control Act) to ensure improved education, testing and linkage to care and treatment. Patients shared their stories by prefacing their comments with the personal statement, “I am the face of hepatitis.” Advocates fired up the crowd with powerful statements. And finally, a moment of silence was held, during which time 100 signs were unfurled that featured the names and photos of lost loved ones, as a tribute to all of those who died from either hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

Chronic viral hepatitis affects three to five times as many Americans as HIV/AIDS, yet gaps in resources and efforts directed at hepatitis B and C have contributed to stalled rates of decline of these diseases in the U.S. Hepatitis B and C are caused by viruses that attack the liver and cause chronic infections that increase the risk of premature death from end-stage liver disease and liver cancer. Both infections, however, are preventable and treatable, so it is tragic that even one life is lost to these diseases.

A recent report on hepatitis and liver cancer from the Institute of Medicine concluded that, “The current approach to the prevention and control of hepatitis B and C in the United States is not working. Unless action is taken more Americans by the thousands will die annually from liver cancer or liver disease related to these preventable diseases.”

To help turn up the volume about hepatitis, a new television PSA (public service announcement) to raise community awareness of hepatitis B and encourage Asian Americans to get screened for the disease has been launched by the Hepatitis B Foundation, in partnership with Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO) and the U.S. Office of Minority. The 30-second spot first aired on World Hepatitis Day in Los Angeles, New York and Washington, DC during programs such as the Today show, Good Morning America and evening newscasts, as well as on Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese stations in these markets. The PSA campaign, which was developed with support from Gilead Sciences, will be distributed nationally this summer.

“There is a profound lack of awareness about the importance of the problem of chronic viral hepatitis in the U.S. and what can be done to prevent and treat these diseases,” says Block. “The time is now to increase federal investment in the prevention and control of chronic hepatitis B and C infections, and the time is now to do more in order to save 150,000 American lives over the next decade.”

About the Hepatitis B Foundation: The Hepatitis B Foundation is the only national nonprofit research and disease advocacy organization solely dedicated to finding a cure and improving the quality of life for those affected with hepatitis B worldwide through research, education and patient advocacy. For more information, please visit www.hepb.org or call (215) 489-4900.

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Page last modified May 26, 2010

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