June 10, 2013, 9:30 a.m. EDT
NEW YORK, June 10, 2013 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc. (NBLCA) is working in partnership with allied organizations to advocate for the passage of New York State Senate (S2750) and Assembly (A1286) bills to expand access to testing for the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), which has reached epidemic proportions in New York and the United States. The proposed legislation would require hospitals and health care practitioners to offer Hepatitis C screenings to all people born between 1945 and 1964--the "Baby Boomer" generation, which has been disproportionately affected by HCV. Advocates are organizing a rally in Albany on Tuesday, June 11, to urge passage of the bill.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 75 percent of the 3.2 million adults with HCV in the United States are Baby Boomers. Because there are often no noticeable symptoms, most of them don't know they are infected with the virus, and without treatment, they face a greatly increased risk of developing potentially life-threatening liver diseases, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.
In New York State, Boomers have the highest HCV infection rate of any group. The NYS Department of Health estimates that more than 200,000 New Yorkers have the virus--60 percent of them in New York City--but 75 percent of them don't know their status. African Americans are two times as likely as non-Hispanic white people to be infected and are less likely to be tested and to receive treatment.
The Hepatitis C virus is transmitted by blood-to-blood contact. Since no vaccine for HCV is available, testing is crucial to prevent new infections. "By getting tested and determining their status, those at risk can get life-saving treatment and learn how to protect themselves against future infection," said NBLCA President and CEO C. Virginia Fields. "We need to educate and inform as many people as possible about this often invisible virus that has become a silent epidemic in the United States. We urge New Yorkers to contact their local and state elected officials to support passage of this critical state legislation that will expand access to testing and set an example for other communities throughout the nation."
For information about the June 11 Albany rally, call 212-614-0023 or email email@example.com. For more about HCV or the proposed legislation, visit www.nblca.org and listen to the premiere of Health Action Radio, hosted by NBLCA on WWRL-AM 1600, featuring C. Virginia Fields and experts on medical issues and policies related to HCV.
Teri Wade, 212-595-4047, firstname.lastname@example.org
SOURCE National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc.