Hepatitis B Congressional Briefing Raises Awareness
May 11, 2006
The Hepatitis B Foundation (HBF) hosted the second Congressional Briefing on Hepatitis B on May 11, 2006, on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C., which was sponsored by U.S. Congressmen Charles Dent (R-Pa) and Mike Honda (D-Ca). It served as a high-profile beginning to National Hepatitis B Awareness Week, May 15-22.
The goal of the Congressional Briefing was to increase awareness about chronic hepatitis B and to prioritize the disease as a serious health issue in the U.S. among key policy makers.
“Raising awareness about hepatitis is absolutely critical to the health of this nation,” said Congressman Dent in his opening statement.
“Great work has been done by the NIH and CDC to combat hepatitis, but we still need to push, and push hard for adequate funding because Americans are perishing from this disease,” added Congressman Honda.
As part of the briefing, a panel of experts spoke about the problem of hepatitis B in the U.S., especially among Asian Americans who are disproportionately affected with the disease - that is, 1 in 10 Asian Americans suffer from chronic hepatitis B.
To help put a personal face on this disease, Ms. Arline Loh, a retired computer manager, spoke about her experience with hepatitis B. “At first I felt tainted, that I couldn’t talk about it with my friends because of the stigma.” She described what it was like to live with chronic hepatitis B, how the virus caused such severe cirrhosis that she was placed on a liver transplant list, and the hope she now feels with the new treatment options that have extended her life.
The primary message from the expert panelists is that screening and early detection of hepatitis B is the key to its prevention and control. Dr. Kowdley spoke about the urgent need for early diagnosis; Dr. Jay Hoofnagle explained that screening is now even more important since it’s no longer just for prevention, but is also important for the management and treatment of hepatitis B; Dr. Leonard Seef emphasized that people are not being tested because hepatitis B is a silent disease, an unrecognized disease; and Dr. John Ward confirmed that one out of every four to five American adults is at risk for hepatitis B.
“Hepatitis B is an enormous problem in this country,” said Dr. Timothy Block, president of the HBF and moderator of the panel discussion. “Great advances have been made and we’ve come so far, but we can’t afford to drop the ball. Now is the time to close the gap and cross the finish line towards a cure.”
Congressional Briefing Panel of Experts
• Dr. Timothy Block, Co-Founder and President of the Hepatitis B Foundation
• Dr. Jay Hoofnagle, Director, Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, National Institute for Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health
• Dr. Leonard Seeff, NIDDK of the National Institutes of Health
• Dr. John Ward, Director, Division of Viral Hepatitis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
• Dr. Kris Kowdley, Professor, Division of Gastroenterology, University of Washington
• Ms. Arline Loh, Retired IT Manager and Hepatitis B Patient Advocate
Congressman Dent (top left) and Congressman Honda (top right) at Congressional Briefing, May 11, 2006.
Expert panelists at Congressional Briefing.Standing left to right: Dr. Seef, Dr. Kowdley, Dr. Hoofnagle, Dr. Block, Dr. Ward, and Ms. Loh