* Hepatitis B (HBV) is the leading cause of liver cancer.
* HBV and hepatitis C (HCV) are known as “silent killers” because there are usually no signs or symptoms until it is too late.
* 1 in 4 with HIV are also infected with HBV or HCV.
* 1 in 12 Asian and Pacific Islander (API) Americans is infected with HBV, making it the largest health disparity facing API Americans.
* Left unmonitored, 1 in 4 with hepatitis B will die.
* Liver disease caused by viral hepatitis is a leading cause of death among those with HIV, and the 2nd leading cause of cancer death for API men.
[Facts taken from the Asian Liver Center and the CDC]
Unfortunately, there is an overall lack of education and awareness of the disease and ways to prevent HBV and HCV. Two-thirds of those infected with HBV don’t even realize it! We must ensure that community members, physicians and policy makers are aware of the devastating effects of untreated HBV, and address this issue nationally and globally. Prevention, care, and treatment not only save lives, but also reduce taxpayer burden and the astronomical costs of treating liver disease and liver cancer down the line.
We’re gaining momentum …
* The National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) issued a statement supporting increased budget for viral hepatitis preventative measures.
* Congressman Michael Honda and Senator John Kerry proposed the Viral Hepatitis Screening Act in November, 2011, calling for a federally-funded core health service for viral hepatitis.
* The CDC Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH) launched a Know More Hepatitis campaign aimed at greater awareness for viral hepatitis.
* US Health and Human Services (HHS) created an Action Plan for the prevention, care and treatment of viral hepatitis, which hopes to implement broad measures to address this issue in the next decade.
Yet we’re still falling short:
There is a huge budget disparity. In the U.S. in 2011, HIV/AIDS received more than $700 million from the CDC -- 40 times more than viral hepatitis. In 2012, viral hepatitis received only $25 million, and there is no guaranteed stable funding for next year. This is not to say that HIV should receive any less funding. In reality, the two are interlinked as viral hepatitis affects a broad spectrum of patients and groups.
President Obama has always been a strong advocate for health issues, including viral hepatitis. He issued a Proclamation for World Hepatitis Day on July 28, 2011, and the Affordable Care Act, which provides health care for more than 30 million Americans, including Asians and Pacific Islanders.
Unfortunately, what is expressed in writing was not reflected in Obama’s fiscal budget for 2012. Obama’s Global Health Initiative proposes more than $60 billion, yet allocates not a penny toward viral hepatitis, despite increasing numbers of hepatitis B infection in the U.S. as a result of immigration. The domestic prevention budget is in danger of being cut. Tell the President to at least maintain the CDC’s funding for viral hepatitis, and to include viral hepatitis in the Global Health Initiative. With your support, America has the potential to lead the way in this global campaign against viral hepatitis, and even eradicate hepatitis B forever as it did smallpox.
You have spoken a lot about hepatitis B during your term, and I applaud you for taking initiative on health-related issues. Your Proclamation of World Hepatitis Day on July 28, 2011 was a momentous step toward bringing greater attention to viral hepatitis.
As you know, hepatitis B and C are the leading causes of liver cancer. Although hepatitis B is entirely avoidable with vaccines, there is an overall lack of education and awareness of the disease and ways to prevent it. Investing in prevention, care, and treatment will save billions of dollars in medical costs down the road.
You say that this silent epidemic must not go unnoticed, but your budget doesn’t reflect this. There are 6 times more Americans infected with chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C than those with HIV -- yet there is only 2% of HIV's funding to prevent it, even though hepatitis B is a leading cause of death for those with HIV. Furthermore, the HHS Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis states that increasing immigration to the U.S. from throughout the world has resulted in more infections domestically. Yet out of your $60 billion Global Health Initiative, not even a single penny was put toward viral hepatitis.
All we ask is that you at least maintain the CDC’s current level of funding for viral hepatitis, and include viral hepatitis in your Global Health Initiative. With your support, America has the potential to lead the way in this global campaign against viral hepatitis, and even eradicate hepatitis B forever as it did smallpox.
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