July 25, 2013

C. Virginia Fields President & CEO, National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS

Posted: 07/25/2013 11:28 am

In a recent post, I wrote about Hepatitis C, including the statistic that black Americans are twice as likely to be infected with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) as non-Hispanic white Americans. Baby Boomers (those born between 1945 and 1965) are five times as likely as other adults to be infected, often without knowing it. The impact of HCV on our communities is severe, and the high rate of Hepatitis C among black Americans warrants action.

The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc. (NBLCA) is partnering with the Coalition for Positive Health Empowerment (COPE) and the Harm Reduction Coalition for the inaugural African American Hepatitis C Action Day on Thursday, July 25, to promote education, testing, and treatment to reduce the incidence of HCV in black communities across the country.

We will be holding a press conference on the steps of New York City Hall at 12 noon, and both New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg have issued proclamations officially recognizing July 25 as African American Hepatitis C Action Day in New York.

Nearly 200,000 New York State residents are thought to be chronically infected with HCV, 60 percent of them in New York City alone. Through our partnerships with COPE, the Harm Reduction Coalition, and our regional affiliates, free testing and educational resources are being offered in Albany, Atlanta, Buffalo, New York City (including East and Central Harlem, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island), and Rochester.

Onsite testing will be conducted at these locations using the OraQuick® HCV Rapid Antibody Test, the newest available Hepatitis C testing technology. A free, interactive webinar, "African Americans and Hepatitis C," presented by leading health experts, will provide information about clinical issues, prevention, treatment, and care.

We are establishing African American Hepatitis C Action Day not only to raise awareness locally and nationally but also as a public call to action to our communities to stand tall, stand together, get tested and, if positive, support each other in making informed decisions and healthy choices. As Eric Michael Brown, a 59-year-old black man living with HCV in Atlanta, says, "Hepatitis C doesn't have to be a death sentence. Changing your lifestyle to remain healthy and seeking proper medical treatment to sustain your health is a decision."

I believe it's not only a decision, but also a duty. Getting tested and getting treated is making a commitment to your family, friends, other loved ones, and our entire community that Hepatitis C will not destroy us. We have too much to live for and too much work to do.

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

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