Each May, many partners across the federal government, including the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its agencies, join with numerous non-federal and community allies to raise awareness of viral hepatitis during Hepatitis Awareness Month. The month-long observance includes national Hepatitis Testing Day on May 19th. These represent important opportunities to promote hepatitis testing and improve outcomes for the estimated 3.4 million to 5.3 million people living with viral hepatitis in the U.S., many of whom do not know they are infected. Chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection can lead to serious liver disease, liver cancer, and death if undiagnosed and untreated.
White House to Host National Hepatitis Testing Day Event May 19
This year the White House, in collaboration with HHS, will host a special event, Responding to Viral Hepatitis in the U.S. – A National Hepatitis Testing Day Observance, on May 19th. Representatives from the White House Offices of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) and National AIDS Policy (ONAP), the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, CDC, and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), as well as partners from state and community groups will discuss key issues facing our country in the fight against hepatitis. You’ll be able to watch a live stream of the event. We’ll share more details about the event here on the blog soon, including the link to the live webcast.
Join in the Observances
Hepatitis Awareness Month offers all stakeholders across the nation an important opportunity to generate greater awareness of viral hepatitis as a critical health concern among the public and health care providers. More widespread understanding about how to prevent, diagnose, and treat viral hepatitis is essential if we are to prevent new infections and poor health outcomes, including hepatitis-related liver cancer and deaths, among those living with viral hepatitis. Here are some of the opportunities to get involved and spread the word:
- Take a 5-minute online hepatitis risk assessment and encourage others to do so.
- Host your own or lend support to a Hepatitis Testing Day event in your community on May 19th, with these digital resources.
- Invite your church, synagogue, mosque or other faith community to join efforts to educate members about viral hepatitis.
- Learn more about the ABCs of viral hepatitis and share the information with family and friends or via your social media networks using #HepAware.
- Download and distribute information from CDC on HBV and HCV.
Tools to Support You
CDC’s Hepatitis Awareness Month and Testing Day Resource Center has free tools to help support your awareness activities and testing events. In addition, CDC has developed a host of resources that you can use to help increase awareness and understanding of viral hepatitis. Check out the available factsheets, provider resources, awareness videos, posters, and other materials from these national education campaigns:
- The Know More Hepatitis campaign encourages HCV testing among people born between 1945-1965 (“baby boomers”), since baby boomers comprise approximately 75% of persons with chronic HCV infection and most people with hepatitis C don’t know they are infected.
- The multi-lingual Know Hepatitis B campaign was designed to increase awareness of HBV among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs), a group disproportionately impacted by chronic HBV infection with 1 in 12 AAPIs living with HBV.
“Despite a number of important advances in viral hepatitis testing, care, and treatment in recent years, awareness of HBV and HCV remain unfortunately low among both affected populations and healthcare providers,” observed my colleague Corinna Dan, R.N., M.P.H., Viral Hepatitis Policy Advisor in the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy. “That’s why it is vitally important for all stakeholders – federal and nonfederal alike – to make the most of opportunities like Hepatitis Awareness Month and Hepatitis Testing Day to educate as many people as possible. These efforts will help us achieve the U.S. Viral Hepatitis Action Plan’s goals of increasing the proportion of people living with HBV and HCV aware of their infection so they can take steps to protect their health and prevent transmission to others.”
Won’t you join us by taking action in May, Hepatitis Awareness Month, that will contribute to more widespread awareness of viral hepatitis and expand our combined national efforts to improve the health of people living with chronic viral hepatitis?
Richard Wolitski, Ph.D., is Acting Director, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; This post was originally published on AIDS.gov.