PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (PRWEB) May 19, 2014
A chorus of voices supporting increased access to viral hepatitis testing for Philadelphia residents echoed through a recent city council meeting, as advocacy groups joined forces to deliver a powerful message.
More than 55 members of Hep B United Philadelphia, led by the Hepatitis B Foundation, and the Hepatitis C Allies of Philadelphia (HepCAP) stormed the Philadelphia City Council at City Hall on May 8. Council members unanimously approved a resolution recognizing May 2014 as Hepatitis Awareness Month in the city of Philadelphia.
Decked out in fluorescent t-shirts that urged “Don’t let hepatitis sneak up on you,” members of the advocacy groups were joined at the council podium by Councilman-at-large David Oh, former city Health Commissioner Dr. Walter Tsou and President of the Philadelphia County Medical Society Dr. Curtis Miyamoto.
Hep B United and HepCAP are working together to invigorate the city’s efforts to combat chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C, both potentially fatal liver diseases in Philadelphia’s at-risk populations.
“Hepatitis B suffers from a visibility problem with respect to some other, higher profile diseases, and that can make it difficult to draw needed attention to it,” said Chari Cohen, Director of Public Health for the Hepatitis B Foundation, which created Hep B United Philadelphia to operate as a citywide education and action-oriented coalition.
“The public awareness challenge is particularly daunting in Philadelphia, where the disease disproportionately impacts a particular minority segment of the population,” Cohen said. “That's what makes today so important. To be able to stand here with the Philadelphia City Council and have them announce to the region that we're turning our focus to this public health issue sends a powerful message.”
An estimated 3,000 Philadelphia residents are infected with viral hepatitis every year, and most are not aware that they suffer from the disease. In Philadelphia, as elsewhere, the disease disproportionately affects people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. In the city’s Asian communities, infection rates have been measured as high as nearly 1 in 4 people.
Hep B United is celebrating its 5th year as the largest local community-based coalition working to eliminate health disparities faced by Philadelphians of Asian and Pacific Islander descent. The high turnout for the visit to City Hall is testament to the dedication of all of those who came out to promote viral hepatitis as an urgent public health priority.
“We looked good and we made significant noise in the council chamber,” said Daniel Chen, Public Health Program Manager of the Hepatitis B Foundation, who helped organize the event.
“Opportunities like this to talk to City Council and the public are fantastic for helping spread the word that now is the time to raise awareness and spread hope,” said Alex Shirreffs, Co-Chair of the Hepatitis C Allies of Philadelphia. “Medications currently on the market and many more in research can now cure most people of Hepatitis C in less than 12 weeks, with far fewer side effects than in the past.”
Hepatitis B is the most common serious liver infection in the world. It is caused by the hepatitis B virus, which attacks the liver. The virus is transmitted through blood and infected bodily fluids. This can occur through direct blood-to-blood contact, unprotected sex, use of unsterile needles, and from an infected woman to her baby during delivery.
The good news is that there is a simple blood test to find out if you have been infected. There is also a safe and effective vaccine to protect you and your loved ones against hepatitis B. Finally, there are promising new treatments available for those who have developed chronic hepatitis B infections.
About the Hepatitis B Foundation: Headquartered in Doylestown, Pa., the Hepatitis B Foundation is the only national nonprofit organization solely dedicated to finding a cure for hepatitis B and improving the quality of life for those affected worldwide through research, education and patient advocacy. To learn more, go to http://www.hepb.org, read our blog at http://wp.hepb.org, follow us on Twitter @HepBFoundation, find us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/hepbfoundation or call 215-489-4900.
About Hep B United Philadelphia: Hep B United Philadelphia seeks to increase the visibility of hepatitis B and liver cancer as an urgent health priority; increase hepatitis B testing and vaccination rates, particularly among at-risk communities; and involve and mobilize stakeholders and policy decision-makers to improve access to care for both the prevention and treatment of hepatitis B and liver cancer. To learn more, go to http://www.hepbunitedphiladelphia.org.
About Hepatitis C Allies of Philadelphia: Also known as HepCAP, Hepatitis C Allies of Philadelphia is a citywide collective dedicated to improving the continuum of hepatitis C prevention, diagnosis, care, and support services in the city of Philadelphia. Its goals are to raise the public profile of hepatitis C and liver cancer as an urgent health priority, develop collaborative projects to address gaps in local hepatitis C services, and involve and mobilize stakeholders and policy decision-makers to improve access to hepatitis prevention and treatment services. To learn more, go to http://www.hepcap.org.