Congress Offers Free Hepatitis Tests
INVC, Washington, Dc, Members of the US House of Representatives offered testing and awareness events focusing on groups with higher risk of hepatitis—baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965 and Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs)—as part of National Hepatitis Awareness Month observations in Washington, D.C. The National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, the Hepatitis B Initiative of Washington, D.C. (HBI-DC), and the Congressional Viral Hepatitis Caucus provided free hepatitis C screening for members, House staffers, and security guards on May 23. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), who was successfully treated for hepatitis C, advocated testing, since hepatitis often has no symptoms. Johnson’s constituent newsletter reported that 65 to 75 percent of the 5.3 million US residents who have hepatitis B and/or C do not know they are infected. Untreated hepatitis can cause liver damage, cirrhosis, and liver cancer. A fundraising event sponsored by HBI-DC took place on May 19 at China Garden restaurant in Rosslyn, Va. According to CDC, AAPIs comprise half of Americans with hepatitis B, and approximately 1 in 12 AAPIs have chronic hepatitis B. HBI-DC recognized Dr. Mark Li, president of the Association of Chinese American Physicians Mid-Atlantic Chapter, for his advocacy efforts, research, and pro bono work educating, screening, and vaccinating people for hepatitis B. Li celebrated increased awareness of hepatitis among AAPIs and improved collaboration with hepatitis C advocacy groups. Washington, D.C. offers free hepatitis B vaccinations through the Department of Health Immunization Program, according to Yujiang Jia, chief epidemiologist with the District of Columbia Department of Health HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD and TB Administration. The US Food and Drug Administration designated a hepatitis C treatment under development by pharmaceutical company AbbVie as a “breakthrough therapy,” which expedites development and review of the drug. The oral, 12-week treatment is in the final phase of testing before becoming available to the public.