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Category Archives: Hepatitis B Advocacy

CVS Caremark : Re-Add Vemlidy To Your Formulary

A few months ago, CVS Caremark – a subsidiary of CVS Health – announced their intentions to remove Vemlidy from their list of covered medications, or formulary. With over 2.2 million individuals in the United States living with chronic hepatitis B, this decision impacts thousands of Americans who rely on this life-saving drug to prevent cirrhosis and liver cancer. 

CVS Caremark is the second-largest Pharmacy Benefits Manager (PBM) in the United States. As a PBM, Caremark manages prescription drug benefit plans for payers including health insurers and large employers. One of their main tasks is to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers and develop and maintain formularies on behalf of health insurers, which influence which drugs are available to patients on their prescription drug plan and determine out-of-pocket costs. Negotiations between PBMs and drug companies are common. However, they create a dangerous, unstable health and financial situation for those suffering from chronic illnesses. 

When it comes to the treatment of chronic illnesses like hepatitis B, medical decisions are best made based upon knowledgeable and informed discussions between the doctor and the patient. After all, doctors have been tracking and monitoring how the virus impacts an individual for many months, if not years, and a patient is aware of how their body reacts to certain medications. CVS Caremark’s decision to remove Vemlidy from their formularies limits the ability of providers to make the best treatment choice for their individual hepatitis B patients.  

Vemlidy is one of just three first-line hepatitis B treatments. First-line treatments are medications that have been proven to be highly effective with the least amount of side effects. For some individuals, this drug is the best option, as other FDA treatments can increase their risk of kidney disease and bone density loss. Hepatitis B expert and Medical Director of the Hepatitis B Foundation Robert G Gish, MD, notes two separate studies where tenofovir alafenamide (TAF) (Vemlidy) had lower amounts of bone density loss and kidney impairment than tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (entecavir), another first-line treatment. In order to properly help their patients, doctors need to have a full range of tools at their disposal. All FDA approved medications should be available for doctors to choose from. 

The Hepatitis B Foundation’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Board is also concerned about the negative health impacts of Caremark’s decision. “TAF is less likely to cause adverse bone mineral density and renal dysfunctions than Tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF). This is true not only for patients at risk of these complications but the overall hepatitis B patient population as demonstrated in clinical studies comparing TAF and TDF. By removing Vemlidy from the formulary plan, CVS Caremark is implementing a significant barrier to thousands of Americans who may need and/or rely on this drug to manage their hepatitis B….We are not advocating that all hepatitis B patients have to be treated with TAF. We believe that this decision should be made by the patient’s doctor with the patient.” 

What Does This Mean: 

Now that Vemlidy has been removed from Caremark’s list of covered treatments, those living with chronic hepatitis B will either have to pay the full price or switch to another medication. To put this into perspective, the average retail price of Vemlidy is $1,350 USD a month. The average cash price reached $1,650 USD in July. There is no generic version of the drug. Like other hepatitis B treatments, Vemlidy must be taken daily over the course of several years to be effective; an individual paying the average retail price would have to pay approximately $16,200 a year to access their medication.

Others will be forced to change from Vemlidy to a similar treatment that is cheaper, but may be less effective with safety issues. This practice is known as non-medical switching: when insurers or PBMs make changes to a formulary primarily due to financial negotiations with manufacturers, in exchange for greater market share.

According to the Alliance for Patient Access, non-medical switching is associated with poor health outcomes. One of their recent studies found that patients who had been switched off their preferred medication experienced complications from the new medication. One in 10 reported being hospitalized for complications after the switch, approximately 40% stopped taking their medication completely, and 60% reported side effects from the new medication. These complications are extremely dangerous for individuals taking hepatitis B medication, as stopping suddenly and without consulting an expert can cause the virus to flare and increase the risk of liver disease, and liver cancer.  

Taking Action

Hep B United (HBU) – a program of the Hepatitis B Foundation and a national coalition of over 40 organizations – has started a petition and will be sending a letter to CVS Caremark. 

Individuals can ask CVS Caremark to reinstate Vemlidy by signing this petition! Organizations can add their names to HBU’s official letter commenting on Caremark’s decision. We hope that CVS Caremark will honor their commitment to the health of Americans and add Vemlidy back on their formularies!

Eliminating Hepatitis B: Highlights of the Hep B United Summit 2019

Last week, the Hepatitis B Foundation, Hep B United, and the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO) hosted over 100 hepatitis B experts, advocates, and public health professionals in Washington D.C. to collaborate and share best practices on how to advance the elimination of hepatitis B. This year’s theme was Eliminating Hepatitis B: Local Change, Global Impact. The 7th annual Summit began with a day of advocacy on Capitol Hill, where attendees met with their states’ congressional members to make a case for legislative prioritization of the epidemic and increased funding for hepatitis B and liver cancer research. Following Advocacy Day were two days of educational sessions, networking, and coalition building activities that aimed to strengthen and expand our ability to address hepatitis B on a national level. 

The Summit was live-streamed on Hep B United’s Facebook; all of the sessions can be viewed here! Below are a few highlights of the Summit. Be sure to look out for the annual Summit Report in the upcoming weeks for a more comprehensive overview of the events! 

Highlights: 

  • We spoke to nearly  60 congressional offices. Some of our advocates got to personally speak with Representative Grace Meng, Representative Judy Chu, Senator Tammy Duckworth, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Representative Ilhan Omar!
  • Dr. Tim Block, co-founder, and President of the Hepatitis B Foundation, provided an update on the path to a hepatitis B cure and the stages of therapeutic drug development research. 
  • Right before the Summit, it was announced that 6 of our partners received grants from the HHS Office of Minority Health to conduct hepatitis B screening, education, linkage to care! 
  • Representatives Judy Chu and Grace Meng stopped by our Congressional Reception to share some inspiring words!
  • The new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Viral Hepatitis, Dr. Caroyln Wester, MD, MPH, stopped by to share current hepatitis B strategies at the CDC, and to emphasize the importance of funding. 
  • Five of our #justB storytellers shared their diverse personal stories about their hepatitis B journeys. Each story will be featured in the upcoming months, so be sure to stay tuned!
  • The New York City Health Department shared their research and work on the “Hep B  Moms Project”, which provides in-language services to hepatitis B positive mothers and helps link them to care. 
  • We displayed 14 hepatitis B-related research posters from partners across the nation! 
  • Our partners helped us to create an interactive World Hepatitis Day exhibit that was displayed on Capitol Hill on Friday, July 26th! The exhibit featured a map of all of the places where Hep B United’s partners work endlessly to eliminate hepatitis, and pledges from our partners & passersby to help #FindTheMissingMillions! 

 

 

 

Check out some more photos on Facebook! 

The Summit was a success, with partners feeling inspired and invigorated to continue the fight against hepatitis B. In addition to partnership building and creating political awareness, the annual gathering is a reminder of the power of collaboration, dedication, and persistence. 

Join the Conversation at the 2019 Hep B United Summit; Watch Summit Sessions On Facebook Live!

 

 

The annual Hep B United Summit, organized by the Hepatitis B Foundation, convenes in Washington D.C. from Wednesday, July 24 through Thursday, July 25. The theme of the 2019 summit is Eliminating Hepatitis B: Local Change, Global Impact. National and local coalition partners, experts, stakeholders, and federal partners will meet to discuss how to increase hepatitis B testing and vaccination and improve access to care and treatment for individuals living with hepatitis B.

You can watch many of these sessions on Facebook Live. You can also follow the conversation at the Summit on Twitter with #Hepbunite19!

Facebook Live video streaming is available to all Pages and profiles on Facebook. Check out the agenda below and go to the Hep B United Facebook Page to view the live broadcast. Some breakout sessions may be broadcast from the Hepatitis B Foundation Facebook Page. Sessions will also be available following the broadcast for those who are not able to join us live.

Here are the details on the sessions that will be broadcast on Hep B United’s Facebook Live unless noted otherwise:

Day 1 – Wednesday July 24:

8:00 – 9:00 AM:  Welcome and Introductions
Tim Block, PhD, President & Co-Founder, Hepatitis B Foundation
Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH, Co-Chair, Hep B United and Senior Vice President, Hepatitis B Foundation
Jeff Caballero, MPH, Co-Chair, Hep B United and Executive Director, Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO)

9:00 AM: CDC Division of Viral Hepatitis 
Carolyn Wester, MD, MPH, Director, Division of Viral Hepatitis, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

9:30 AM: The Path to a Hepatitis B Cure
Tim Block, PhD, President and Co-Founder, Hepatitis B Foundation

10:15 AM: Local Initiatives: Eliminating Hepatitis B Across the Lifespan
Moderator: Catherine Freeland, MPH, Public Health Program Manager, Hepatitis B Foundation
Panelists:
Moon S. Chen, MPH, PhD, Professor, University of California – Davis
Liz Tang, Health Care Access Specialist, and Farma Pene, Health Care Coordinator, New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene
Chelsie Porter, MPH, Prevention & Outreach Program Manager, Hepatitis Education Project

11:15 AM: Integrating Systems Level Changes to Eliminate Hepatitis B
Moderator: Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH, Senior Vice President, Hepatitis B Foundation
Panelists:        
Jeff Caballero, MPH, Executive Director, AAPCHO
Su Wang, MD, MPH, Medical Director, Center for Asian Health, Saint Barnabas Medical Center, Livingston, NJ
Richard Andrews, MD, Research Director, HOPE Clinic, Houston, TX

12:30 PM: Lunch Keynote Presentation
Center for Disease Analysis Foundation
Devin Razavi-Shearer, Hepatitis B/D Project Lead

 1:45-3:00 PM  BREAKOUT SESSIONS I

Innovative Strategies to Conduct HBV Education, Testing, and Linkage to Care
Discuss effective outreach strategies to conduct HBV education, testing, and patient navigation among high-risk communities.
Moderator: Sherry Chen, MPH, CHES, CDC Division of Viral Hepatitis

Panelists:
Paul Lee and Ohkyun Ko, Korean Community Services, New York, NY

Chooson Byambaa & Tuya Lkhaijav, Hepatitis B Initiative of Washington, DC
Alia Southworth, Asian Health Coalition, Chicago, IL

Increasing HBV Provider Education (HepBFoundation Facebook)
Join the National Task Force on Hepatitis B to discuss the development of provider education tools to manage chronic hepatitis B in the primary care setting.
Facilitators: Amy Trang, PhD, MEd, Administrator and Richard Andrews, MD, Co-Chair, National Task Force on Hepatitis B

 

3:15 PM – 4:45 PM     BREAKOUT SESSIONS II

Local, National, and Global Efforts to Increase HBV Testing and Education Among African Communities (HepBFounation Facebook)
Discuss pioneering efforts and strategies to raise awareness and promote testing in African communities, whose hepatitis B burden rivals that of Asian Americans. Learn tips for education and how your organization can begin or expand current work.
Moderator: Cynthia Jorgensen, DrPH, CDC Division of Viral Hepatitis

Panelists:
Oni Richards, African Family Health Organization, Philadelphia, PA
Chioma Nnaji, Multicultural AIDS Coalition, Boston, MA
Sierra Pellechio, CHES, Hepatitis B Foundation
Catherine Freeland, MPH, Hepatitis B Foundation

Combating HBV-Related Stigma and Discrimination
Discuss the impact of HBV-related stigma and development of policies to combat institutional discrimination.
Moderator: Maureen Kamischke, Hepatitis B Foundation

Panelists:
Vrushabh Shah, MPH, NASTAD
Nadine Shiroma, Alexa Canizzo,, Hepatitis B Foundation

 

 Day 2 – Thursday July 25

8:30 AMNational Action Plan to Eliminate Hepatitis B
Carol Jimenez, Deputy Director for Strategic Initiatives,  Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

9:00 AM: Global Efforts to Eliminate Hepatitis B
Su Wang, MD, MPH, President-Elect, World Hepatitis Alliance

  9:30 AM: Patients Driving Change: #justB Storytelling Campaign
Moderator: Rhea Racho, MPAff, Public Policy & Program Manager, Hepatitis B Foundation
#justB Storytellers Panel: Cuc Kim Vu, Peter Vo, Bright A., Xuan Phan, and Jacki Chen

11:00 AM: Improving Access to Hepatitis B Treatment
Panelists:
Michaela Jackson, MS, Public Health & Outreach Program Coordinator, Hepatitis B Foundation              
Alyssa Gallipani, PharmD, BCACP, Ambulatory Care Specialist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice, RWJ Barnabas Health & Fairleigh Dickinson University
Carl Schmid, MBA, Deputy Executive, Director, The AIDS Institute

 12:15 PM:

EliminatingTuberculosis in Asian American Communities
Nickolas Deluca, PhD, Branch Chief, Communications, Education, and Behavioral Studies, Division of TB Elimination, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

 1:00 PM:  HBU Coalition Strategies
Facilitator: Amy Trang, PhD, Administrator, National Task Force on Hepatitis B

Not able to join the sessions with Facebook Live? Follow the conversation on Twitter using the #Hepbunite19 hashtag. Follow the events, retweet and engage with event attendees and help us raise hepatitis B awareness in the U.S. and around the globe. We’ll also be posting on twitter during our Advocacy Day, Tuesday, July 23rd.

World Hepatitis Day is July 28th, and this Summit is an opportunity to share with the world what we’re doing to help those living with hepatitis B in our communities. Other popular hashtags for World Hepatitis Day, and to raise hepatitis B awareness, include: #NOhep, #KnowHepB, #WorldHepatitisDay, #WorldHepDay, #WHD2019, #FindTheMissingMillions #hepatitis, #hepatitisB, #HBV, #hepB, #justB. Connect with, follow and engage with fellow partners and advocates on twitter to keep the hep B conversation going during the Hep B United Summit, World Hepatitis Day events, and beyond.

Check out: @AAPCHOpolicy, @aidsadvocacy, @alex_daleks, @aphfsd, @APPEALhealth, @AVACNow, @bentheactivator, @CAHE_AHC, @catherineafree, @CDAFound, @cdchep, @CDC_TB, @ChoosonB, @hepBaware, @HBIDC, @HepBFoundation, @HepBpolicy, @HepBUnited, @HepBUnitedPhila, @hepdconnect, @HepEduProject, @HepFreeHawaii, @hepfreeNYC, @HHS_ViralHep, @HOPECHC, @iwgroup, @jacki0362, @jeffaapcho, @KCSNY, @kmoraras, @Liz98223514, @nirahjohnson, @NYU_CSAAH, @ponnivp, @randrews98, @RheaRacho, @swang8 @tuugiil73

Missing from the list? Contact the Foundation at info@hepb.org to be added.

We’re having a World Hepatitis Day exhibit on Capitol Hill in the Rayburn Building Foyer,  Friday, July 26th from 10 am to 3 pm. We’ll be asking legislators and partners how they plan to “Find the Missing Millions” living with hepatitis B.

Visit the Hep B United and Hepatitis B Foundation websites for more information about hepatitis B and related programs.

We’re Here to Help: New Resource to Improve Medication Access in the U.S.

Are you a hepatitis B patient living in the United States? Are you taking entecavir or tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) to help manage your hepatitis B infection? Thanks to the Hepatitis B Foundation’s new strategic partnership with Rx Outreach – America’s largest fully licensed, non-profit, mail order pharmacy and Patient Assistance Program – you may be able to receive your medication for less than 5% of the average retail price!

Each year, we answer thousands of national and international phone calls, emails, and social media messages from people who have been impacted by hepatitis B. Over the past year, we have seen a significant increase in calls regarding access to medication. The majority of those calls have been from people living in the United States. The ability to access medications is more than just having them available at a local pharmacy – it is about the price as well.

In the United States, life-saving generic treatments can cost more than $830 a month on average. As treatments are typically taken for several years after a person begins, paying such high monthly out-of-pocket costs simply isn’t an option for most people. That’s why we partnered with Rx Outreach to increase patient accessibility to life-saving hepatitis B medications.

We believe that affordable treatments should be low-cost and widely available to everyone who needs them. Hepatitis B antiviral treatments need to be taken daily in order to be effective, and a lack of affordable options force some individuals who are living with chronic hepatitis B to avoid diagnosis and treatment, to stop taking medication or to only take it sporadically, which increases their risk of developing cirrhosis or liver cancer. Our new partnership can help eliminate the need for such potentially harmful actions by providing the same medication at a much lower cost than retail pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance plans can offer.

Rx Outreach provides a 30-day supply of entecavir and TDF – two of the most effective, common, and preferred treatments – through the mail. Interested individuals can enroll in the program with 3 simple steps. If you need to transfer your prescription from another pharmacy, you can do that too!

Eligibility Requirements:

Eligibility is based upon household income, not on insurance status or prescription drug coverage. To be eligible for Rx Outreach’s pricing, please review the chart below or you can check your eligibility here. If it appears that you do not qualify but you believe that you should, you can also call Rx Outreach and a representative will assist you.

Our partnership with Rx Outreach will help to fill a gap in access to affordable medication and help to lessen the burden of one of the many forms of discrimination that those living with hepatitis B must face. It offers more than 1,000 medication strengths at affordable prices. Since 2010, Rx Outreach has saved people in need more than $662 million on their prescription medication.

#Tri4ACure: Racing For Hepatitis B Awareness, Cure Research, and Health

Edwin Tan learned about his hepatitis B diagnosis in high school after he was banned from donating blood to the Red Cross. Unsure as to why he was not allowed to donate, Edwin asked his doctor about it a few years later. When the routine blood tests came back with irregular results, the doctor ordered an additional test for hepatitis B; the hepatitis B test came back positive.

Despite the shock of the diagnosis, Edwin did not let it hold him back! He researched the infection and discovered the importance of keeping his liver healthy. He took steps to change his diet and incorporate more exercise into his daily routine. Studies show that regular exercise can greatly reduce the risk of liver disease and liver cancer. After a friend invited him to participate in a small triathlon, Edwin decided that triathlons and racing were the perfect ways to have fun while staying healthy!  

Now, Edwin is competing in a series of six races in midwestern America to help raise  money and awareness for hepatitis B research, patient outreach, and education through the Hepatitis B Foundation! You can make a gift to support Edwin’s fundraising efforts here.

“Hepatitis B is something that doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of awareness around it, has stigma associated with it, and doesn’t seem to attract the same attention as a lot of other major diseases out there,” said Edwin. “I believe that the Hepatitis B Foundation is working to tackle all of these issues and focus on finding a cure for it. Because hepatitis B was the reason I started racing and I am interested in increasing awareness, I found it fitting to race for the Hepatitis B Foundation.”

On Saturday, June 15th, Edwin competed in the Minnetonka Triathlon in Minnetonka, Minnesota – his first of six races this summer. In just under an hour and a half he accomplished: swimming more than 100 yards, biking 15 miles, and running 3 miles!

Edwin’s next race will be on Saturday, June 22nd at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota and we are looking forward to cheering him as he works hard to raise awareness and prove that those living with hepatitis B can achieve their goals

To follow updates on Edwin’s journey, you can follow the Hepatitis B Foundation or Hep B United on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to use the hashtag #Tri4ACure!

Know Your Rights: Legal Protections for Those Living With Hepatitis B

Despite being the world’s most common liver infection, hepatitis B remains stigmatized and those living with it can still face discrimination from various sources. Each year, the Hepatitis B Foundation answers numerous calls from around the world from people who have faced school, workplace, and travel challenges due to their hepatitis B status. These challenges are typically rooted in misinformation, outdated laws or guidelines, stigma, and an overall lack of awareness. However, there are laws and organizations who will work to protect you from such discrimination!

The Hepatitis B Foundation has added a new section to our website that focuses on the rights of people living with hepatitis B. We’ve compiled information on common barriers that those living with hepatitis B may face while applying to schools, jobs, or accessing affordable medicine. Each of the below sections provides information on discriminatory practices, what you can do if you experience discrimination, and how the Hepatitis B Foundation is working to fight discrimination.

In the United States, all forms of hepatitis B related discrimination are illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Both laws include provisions that protect people living with chronic conditions. Unfortunately, some forms of discrimination are still legal in certain countries, but steps can sometimes be taken to appeal to immigration policies in these areas. Local organizations can also help those living in foreign countries to navigate complex laws or policies regarding those living with hepatitis B. Many of these organizations can be found through the World Hepatitis Alliance’s member list. Join them and add your voice to eliminate hepatitis B discrimination in your country.

Specific protections, resources, and ways to combat legal discrimination can be found in the Know Your Rights section of our website! If you are faced with discrimination due to hepatitis B, it is important to know your rights and to have information to support your case. Use the information on our site to help advocate for yourself, join with others, or contact the Hepatitis B Foundation at info@hepb.org if you need additional assistance.

Behind the Scenes of A Viral Hepatitis Elimination Plan in Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, the Hepatitis B Foundation is collaborating with various stakeholders to launch a State Viral Hepatitis Elimination Plan! Join us as we document our process from start to finish!

In this video, Michaela Jackson, MS recounts the Hepatitis B Foundation’s attendance to the first ever State Viral Hepatitis Elimination Stakeholder Planning Meeting! The meeting, which was hosted by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, brought awareness and education to the state’s lawmakers!

#Tri4ACure: From Hepatitis B Diagnosis to Advocating for a Cure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Edwin Tan – a 29-year-old mechanical design engineer from Minneapolis, Minnesota! In 2014, Edwin was diagnosed with hepatitis B. Like many others living with hepatitis B, his diagnosis was a shock. Before his diagnosis, all he knew was that he was banned from giving blood to the Red Cross, but no one had explained the reason why. A routine blood test provided no explanations either, so his doctor decided to test for hepatitis B. The test revealed that Edwin was living with chronic hepatitis B.

After his diagnosis, Edwin decided to learn all that he could about the infection. Through his research, he found that one of the best ways to keep his liver healthy was through small lifestyle changes. Edwin began to pursue healthier life choices by increasing the amount of exercise he was getting and paying closer attention to his diet. Although he loved craft beer, he knew that drinking could be extremely dangerous to those with liver infections, so he willingly gave up all alcohol. Edwin’s dedication to a more active lifestyle led him to challenge himself by competing in local races and triathlons.

Edwin’s journey led him to realize that there is a lack of awareness about hepatitis B. He noticed that the stigmas facing those living with hepatitis B could take a physical and mental toll on an individual and impact how they viewed themselves. Edwin’s observations inspired him to reach out to the Hepatitis B Foundation to raise money and awareness for hepatitis B research, patient outreach, and education. Since his passion for racing was discovered due to his commitment to health after his diagnosis, it seemed appropriate for him to use his love of sports to fundraise for hepatitis B awareness and research! He hopes that his athletic achievements help others living with hepatitis B to realize that they are more than their infection.

Now, Edwin is training for a series of six races—triathlons, a marathon and an ironman – and we’ll be with him every step of the way! You can make a gift to support Edwin’s fundraising efforts here.

“I want to be a positive example against the stigma associated with Hep B and the shame that some people may feel for having it. Completing an Ironman, which is regarded as one of the most difficult one-day athletic events, serves as a good example that we each can accomplish anything we want as long as we believe in ourselves.”

To follow updates on Edwin’s journey, you can follow the Hepatitis B Foundation or Hep B United on Facebook. Be sure to use the hashtag #Tri4ACure!

Hepatitis B Discrimination in U.S. Medical Schools: What you Should Know

In 2013, an integral ruling by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) took a major step towards ending one of the many forms of discrimination that hepatitis B patients face. The settlement made it illegal for medical schools to discriminate against students due to their hepatitis B status. Six years later, the words of

“Blind Lady Justice”

Thomas E. Perez, former Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, still ring true: “Excluding people with disabilities from higher education based on unfounded fears or incorrect scientific information is unacceptable”. Unfortunately, many medical schools – both nationally and internationally – fail to acknowledge this.

Since the court settlement in 2013, we’ve received an increasing number of patient complaints regarding medical school discrimination. Some students completed all of their classes only to be told that they couldn’t participate in their clinical experience (which is a degree requirement) due to their hepatitis B status. Other students have had their acceptance to a school revoked because they tested positive for the infection. Both situations are considered illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

What You Should Know:

  • You are protected by the law: Under Titles II and III of the ADA, it is illegal for entities, including schools, to discriminate against students based upon a disability like a chronic illness. In addition, institutions are required to make arrangements, policies, and procedures when needed in order to ensure that those titles are being followed.
  • You are not a threat: It is important to note that discriminatory policies are often outdated and should be unnecessary – in both schools and the healthcare field – as long as the appropriate procedures and precautions are followed.  
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Recommendations are in your favor: In 2012, the CDC worked with us and a few other organizations to update their recommendations for managing healthcare students and workers with hepatitis B. Amongst those changes were no requirement of telling patients of a health-care provider’s or student’s hepatitis B status, using HBV DNA instead of hepatitis B e-antigen status to monitor infectivity; and, for those requiring oversight, a threshold value of HBV DNA considered “safe” (<1,000 IU/ml). They also state thatfor most chronically  infected providers and students who conform to current standards for infection control, hepatitis B infection status alone does not require any curtailing of their practices or supervised learning experiences. “

What Discrimination Looks Like:

Sometimes, schools’ discriminatory actions are obvious but oftentimes they are not. Despite direction from the DOJ and requirements in the specified in the ADA, some institutions have not created standardized arrangements or policies for people who have hepatitis B. Other schools are not aware that turning away certain students based on a disability is illegal.

Discriminatory policies by schools may include:

  • Asking students to show proof of hepatitis B surface antibodies (HBsAb)
  • Revoking acceptance to the school based upon positive hepatitis B status (HbsAg)
  • Requiring undetectable viral load or e-antigen negativity for completion of clinical rotations

As an example of a discriminatory policy, Lehigh Carbon Community College states that: “The health care agencies for clinical experiences have specific health requirements that must be met by each student. The program requires proof of personal health insurance during enrollment in the nursing program. Admission to the program may be revoked upon review of these results. (1) Positive Hepatitis B Surface Antigen (2) Titer Levels for Hep B antibody level.”

This policy does not comply with the CDC’s current recommendations and seems to be a violation of the protections afforded by the ADA. You can view this policy on page 15 of their student handbook.

A good, non-discriminatory policy should be transparent and specific. One example of this is Rutgers University. The policy is in line with, and clearly references, the CDC’s most recent guidelines and provides a clear path on how to proceed based upon each student’s infections:

“Individuals who are found to be infected with HBV shall be counseled by the Student Health Service director or Occupational Medicine/Employee Health Service director in accordance with current guidelines from the CDC.”

You can view these guidelines under section H, category 40.3.5 of their policy website.

What To Do If You Face Discrimination:

If you believe that a school is discriminating against you based on your hepatitis B status, there are a few important steps you can take. First, try to schedule a meeting with the person who is in charge of the program, such as a director. This will help to quicken the response to your message and help facilitate change. Be sure to bring these formal guideline documents with you to help build your case: the CDC’s updated guidelines and the official DOJ/ADA letter to schools regarding hepatitis B discrimination. You can even highlight the sections that apply to your case. Hopefully, the school will realize their mistake and make the necessary changes to their policy!

If the school refuses to acknowledge your lawful protections, you can reach out to us at info@hepb.org and we will assist you. You can also file a formal complaint with the DOJ.