Hep B Blog

Tag Archives: AASLD

New Hepatitis B Treatment Guidelines Revealed at AASLD 2015 Conference

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The American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD), the organization that defines how doctors should treat hepatitis B and other liver ailments, unveiled new hepatitis B treatment guidelines this week at its annual conference in San Francisco.

The new guidelines are published here.  Patients should review them and discuss any updates that address their individual conditions with their physicians. Continue reading "New Hepatitis B Treatment Guidelines Revealed at AASLD 2015 Conference"

Fighting the Doom and Gloom: Screening Saves Lives!

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By Anu Hosangadi

Liver Cancer Connect’s “Fighting the Doom and Gloom” series is highlighting some of the advances in prevention, screening, and treatment that are helping to increase survival among people with liver cancer. Previously, we talked about how prevention works. Now we’ll explain how screening and surveillance save lives.
Continue reading "Fighting the Doom and Gloom: Screening Saves Lives!"

The Hepatitis B Foundation Participates in Liver Capitol Hill Day, 2013 – A Personal Reflection

Yesterday the Hepatitis B Foundation participated in the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) annual “Liver Capitol Hill Day” visits. This is a great opportunity to get in front of state Senators and Congressmen in order to make requests known to them. It is also an opportunity to educate. As a constituent, your state representatives are interested in what you have to say. The “Asks” for the day were to support funding for liver related research, prevention strategies, and support of liver patient access to quality medical care.  Specifically, we were asking for NIH funding growth, rather than the 20% cut over the last decade, along with support of government agencies such as the CDC Division of Viral Hepatitis, and the delivery of health care systems and payment policies for patients living with liver diseases.  Prevention is also critical with specific asks for new, one-time hepatitis C testing and screening for hepatitis B for at-risk patients. As we are all aware, budgets are tight and we will all soon feel the effects of the Sequester. Research programs may no longer be funded, or severely cut, public health agencies and programs will be cut, and patients who are currently receiving medical assistance will suffer. For treated patients with HBV, it is essential nothing interrupts the daily antiviral use, and of course HBV and liver cancer prevention through screening, vaccination and surveillance is both necessary and cost effective in the long run.

Due to the Sequester, the day started in a panic for many Hill visitors. I was fortunate to arrive early – a good thing since I waited in a long security line for 45 minutes that wrapped around the building. As Maryland residents, Dave Li and I met with staff from both Senator Ben Cardin’s (D) and Senator Barbara Mikulski’s (D) offices.  Senator Mikulski was recently appointed the Chairperson of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee. This means she will have a great deal of influence on budget and spending decisions. We were told that due to the Sequester, the Continuing Resolution (CR) will remain in place for the remainder of the 2013, but Senator Mikulski is optimistic that the FY14 and future funding for the NIH, specifically, will be maintained. As a Maryland Senator, this is extremely important to Sen. Mikulski on many fronts. Senator Cardin has been making visits to agencies in MD, including the NIH, and researchers are frustrated they are unable to do their work.  Both Senator Cardin and Senator Mikulski support federal agencies (such as the CDC, Division of Viral Hepatitis, Public Health Agency etc.) and initiatives that provide care and services to meet the health care needs of Marylanders.  Fortunately this supports the Health and U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Viral Hepatitis Action Plan initiatives, since both Senators are supportive of prevention and surveillance initiatives.  Dave and I walked out of our Senate meeting feeling pretty good.

Unfortunately, the outlook was not so optimistic on the House side. We visited staffers from Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Congressman Elijah Cummings offices. Although they are working on budgets, they are meeting with opposition and resigned to deep cuts in their supported programs.  Congressman Cumming’s staffer was pleased to hear an optimistic viewpoint from Mikulski’s office.  Although clearly mixed signals from our House and Senate meetings, we can only hope that Congress will eventually work together and move forward with continued funding of agencies and programs that support those living with liver disease.

Please remember that your state Senators and Representatives have been voted to serve YOU. It is imperative that your voice be heard. If you don’t let them know what is important to you, important programs and agencies will be drastically cut.  You do not need to be a political machine to participate. Don’t know your Representative?   Find your Rep. on-line by putting in your zip code or state to learn who you need to contact. Find your Senator, Governor and Congressmen here. Call the Capitol switchboard’s toll free number at 1-888-876-6242 , or send an email  or letter with your asks, and your personal stories. Be sure your message is clear and concise, and personalize it if you can. You can visit your Representative or Senator when you are visiting Washington, D. C., or in the local, state office. Let your voice be heard – especially during this very difficult time.

Reflection on Liver Capitol Hill Day Visits

 

 

Wednesday I participated in the Liver Capitol Hill Day Visits sponsored by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD). I wanted to write this reflection to demystify Hill visits for those that are reluctant to participate or feel that they are not particularly political or up on on the legislative issues. I would certainly put myself in that category, but I am an HBV advocate, and I recognize that there are simple ways I can participate that might make a difference for those living with HBV in my state and in our country.

Liver Capitol Hill Day was a well organized event with specific “talking points” and “asks”, and the logistics were very well coordinated, but in general the individual visits themselves were the same as others where I have participated. If you are in D.C. and wish to visit with your Representative or Senator’s office, I would highly encourage it. They want and need to hear from their constituents, and if you have a personal story to tell, that’s even better.

Call your Representative’s or Senator’s office and ask to make an appointment with the staff member that handles health issues. If you are not sure who your Representative is, merely type in your zip code at www.house.gov. To determine who your Senators are go to www.senate.gov and select your state from the drop down member. Call them and set up an appointment. If you are looking for specific talking points, you could consider contacting an organization like the Hepatitis B Foundation, AASLD or other viral hepatitis organizations that might be able to provide you with some ideas for your visit.

It is very unlikely you will even catch a glimpse of your Representative or Senator, so don’t worry about feeling nervous. The Staffers are accustomed to constituents coming in with their requests. There is nothing formal about the meeting and often you are crammed in a closet-sized room with a desk and a chair, or meeting wherever there is space.  This is definitely not a formal presentation and time is tight. Plan on the whole visit taking 20 minutes or less.  No one will be offended if your piece isn’t well-polished, or if you pull out a paper with your talking points.  I always show a picture of my daughter in the hospital, after one of her liver biopsies.  It really personalizes the visit.

This is a great opportunity to tell your personal hepatitis B story. It puts a face on the infection. Often, your staffer will have little or no knowledge of viral hepatitis, but from that moment on, your face and your story will be what he remembers.

I am terrible with numbers, but because this is a time of tight budgets, I always drive home the much lower cost for prevention, screening and treatment versus caring for a patient with advanced liver disease or liver cancer, or a patient in need of a liver transplant. There are the obvious medical costs, and likely the inability for the person to continue working.  And of course there are the emotional aspects. In my case, my daughter was fortunate to have treatment and respond at a young age. It was expensive at the time, but nothing compared to costs associated had we been unaware of her HBV status, and her condition had progressed over time to a much more unfavorable outcome.

So consider meeting with your Representative or Senator while you are in D.C., or even at their local, home office. If you’re still not comfortable with the idea of meeting face-to-face with the health staffer, then please consider calling or emailing your Representative’s and your Senator’s office and telling them your personal story living with hepatitis B. It only takes a few minutes, and last week’s blog will tell you exactly what you need to do. We need your help!