July 24, 2013

Inaugural African American Hepatitis C Action Day Promotes Education, Testing, and Treatment to Reduce High Rates of HCV in Black Communities


NEW YORK, July 24, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- On Thursday, July 25, 2013, the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc. (NBLCA), in partnership with the Coalition for Positive Health Empowerment (COPE) and the Harm Reduction Coalition, is spearheading the first annual African American Hepatitis C Action Day, a national community mobilization initiative aimed at reducing the high incidence of HCV infection in black communities by drawing attention to this neglected health disparity and promoting education, testing, and treatment.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over 3.2 million adults are infected with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV)—75 percent of them "Baby Boomers"—and, because there are often no noticeable symptoms, many don't know they are infected.

For black people, the rates of HCV infection and HCV-related mortality are twice as high as they are for non-Hispanic whites. The virus, which is transmitted by blood-to-blood contact, is a leading cause of potentially fatal liver diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. Early detection and intervention are essential to provide life-saving treatment and reduce the spread of the virus. 

Free testing and educational resources will be offered in all five boroughs of New York City, upstate New York (Albany, Buffalo, and Rochester), and Atlanta. Onsite testing will be conducted using the OraQuick® HCV Rapid Antibody Test, the only rapid HCV test approved by the FDA.

"HCV is a silent killer in the U.S. today, and the rate of infection is disproportionately high in black communities," said C. Virginia Fields, President and CEO of NBLCA. "We organized this day of action to educate our communities about this serious health risk, provide them with access to free screenings and resources that will help preserve their health and well-being, and publicly highlight the need for continued vigilance to stem the tide of this epidemic."

New York State and City proclamations recognizing July 25 as African American Hepatitis C Action Day will be presented at a press conference led by C. Virginia Fields on the steps of New York City Hall at 12 noon. Nearly 200,000 NY State residents are thought to be chronically infected with HCV, 60% of them in New York City.  Last month, the New York State Senate and Assembly approved legislation that would require hospitals and health care practitioners to offer Hepatitis C screenings to all people born between 1945 and 1965—the Baby Boomer generation, which has the highest rate of HCV infection. The bill has not yet been signed by Governor Cuomo.

For a full schedule of African American Hepatitis C Action Day events, visit www.nblca.org.

The mission of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc. (NBLCA) is to educate, mobilize, and empower black leaders to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS and other health disparities in their local communities.

Media Contacts:
Teri Wade, 212-595-4047, teri@missionandmessage.com
Jacqueline Lara, 240-305-2133, jlara@mpactpr.com

SOURCE National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc.



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