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13. What are the current and future challenges?

So, what are the challenges? Well, there’s still a lack of understanding of the risks of chronic infection by both the public and sadly by healthcare providers. A lot of doctors really are still not very clear on how you get hepatitis B, how you treat it, how you manage it. It’s still an area that requires more education. Then, research is needed to find a cure of chronic hepatitis B virus infection. You’ll hear more about the treatment of hepatitis B, but the fact remains that in 2004, we still don’t have a therapy that is curative. We can manage people quite well, but it’s difficult to cure them. And so, what I've tried to lay out is that this is a very large problem and for those of us in the field, we see that there are not enough research funds to address the remaining problems. Funding has either plateaued or actually declined (the federal funding). The likelihood is in the next several years as the budget crunch really hits, not just this kind of research but all medical research, funding is going to decline for many diseases. The National Institutes of Health is going to be making choices, making priorities, which diseases are favored and which diseases are not. The ones that are not favored are going to see their funding diminished greatly. And so this is a critical time where we think it’s really vital to make the case that hepatitis B is still not just a very important problem but a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the world at large and a significant problem in the United States.