April 30, 2012
By Ronald Valdiserri, M.D., M.P.H., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases, and Director, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and John Ward, MD, Director, Division of Viral Hepatitis, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Every May, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and our public health partners across the nation observe Hepatitis Awareness Month. This year, we are very pleased to be marking this observance during a time of increased awareness about and collaboration around viral hepatitis –due in large part to the work of our federal partners over the past year on the implementation of the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis.
Developed by an inter-agency working group and announced last May by Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary for Health, the Action Plan details steps to increase viral hepatitis awareness and knowledge among healthcare providers and communities and strategies to improve access to quality prevention, care, and treatment services for persons living with viral hepatitis. For the past year, we have been collaborating with our colleagues across HHS, as well as from the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Prisons, to pursue the strategies detailed in the Action Plan. Together, we are working to ensure that new cases of viral hepatitis are prevented and that persons who are already infected are tested, informed about their infection, and provided with counseling, care, and treatment.
Learn More About Viral Hepatitis Risks, Tests and Treatment
An estimated 3.5–5.3 million Americans are living with chronic (lifelong) hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus infection. Most of them do not know that they are infected, placing them at greater risk for severe, even fatal, complications from the disease and increasing the likelihood that they will spread the virus to others. We encourage you to use Hepatitis Awareness Month to learn more about this “silent epidemic.” One place to start learning more is CDC’s Hepatitis Awareness Month webpage. Check back over the course of the month as exciting new resources and tools are added to this page. The CDCNPIN webpage is another important resource, where federal partners working to implement the Action Plan have posted downloadable materials designed to educate the public, patients, and providers about viral hepatitis. Select “hepatitis” as your topic and add relevant keywords below, such as “testing,” “treatment,” or “Asian American,” and you will get a list of materials to read and share with others.
Inaugural Hepatitis Testing Day Coming on May 19
As called for in the Action Plan, May 19th has been designated as Hepatitis Testing Day in the United States. Coinciding with Hepatitis Awareness Month, this inaugural Hepatitis Testing Day offers an important opportunity to remind healthcare providers and educate the public about who should be tested for viral hepatitis. We’ll be sharing more about this observance in a blog post later this month. In the meantime, to learn more and start thinking about how you and your organization can participate in promoting viral hepatitis awareness and testing, visit CDC’s Hepatitis Testing Day webpage.
We hope you will join with us in promoting both important observances as a way to enhance public awareness of viral hepatitis prevention, testing, care and treatment across the United States. Won’t you please commit to learning more yourself and/or sharing information about viral hepatitis with at least two other people? They can be family, friends, co-workers or neighbors. Working together, we can end the silence around this epidemic and in so doing, make great strides in improving the health of persons who are at risk for or living with viral hepatitis.