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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.

Liver Cancer Webinar Series: What You Need to Know

Missed the webinar? Download the March 6th Webinar and listen to Hepatitis B and Liver Cancer: What You Need to Know, by Dr. Robert Gish

Due to an overwhelming response, continued registration for  this Wednesday’s webinar with Dr. Gish is closed. Stay tuned as the webinar will be recorded in it’s entirety, and will be made available. Stay tuned for details! 

Did you know?

Liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths and the seventh most common cancer worldwide. But the major causes of liver cancer— such as chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C, and cirrhosis— are largely preventable. And treatments for liver cancer are available.

Learn more about liver cancer

Join The Hepatitis B Foundation’s webinar series to learn about the risk factors for liver cancer and the importance of liver cancer screening and surveillance. The expert presenters will describe currently available treatment options and clinical trials.

The first webinar of the series will be Liver Cancer and Hepatitis B: What You Need to Know, presented by Robert G. Gish, MD, an internationally renowned liver diseases expert.

Dr. Gish is a Clinical Professor of Medicine, Section Chief of Hepatology, and Co-Director of the Center for Hepatobiliary Disease and Abdominal Transplantation at the University of California, San Diego Health Systems.

Dr. Gish has an active research program in viral hepatitis and has published more than 600 original articles, abstracts, and book chapters, and more than 120 peer-reviewed publications.

Liver Cancer and Hepatitis B: What You Need to Know webinar details:

Presented by:Dr. Robert G. Gish
Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Time: 12 noon EST; 9 am PST
Click here to register

For additional accurate, easy-to-understand information on liver cancer, visit the Hepatitis B Foundation’s new, dedicated website, www.LiverCancerConnect.org.

 

Which is Worse Chronic Hepatitis B or C? What Do You Think?

From HBF’s expert Guest Blogger, Dr. Thomas London

If you ask doctors in the United States, or patients with liver disease, or the average person on the street, the answer that you usually get is that Hepatitis C is worse.  Hepatitis C has a bad reputation in the media and with the public. We, at the Hepatitis B Foundation, tend to think that hepatitis B is the worse disease, but until now we have not had any basis for that answer. Now we do.

Recently a group of investigators from Johns Hopkins University published a paper with the title “Comparative Risk of Liver-Related Mortality from Chronic Hepatitis B Versus Chronic Hepatitis C Virus Infection”.  The answer from this publication is that hepatitis B is more likely to cause liver related death than hepatitis C.  It is worth dwelling on how the authors came to this conclusion: unexpectedly, the AIDS epidemic triggered the studies, which made the conclusion possible.

Acquired immune deficiency disease (AIDS) was first reported in the United States in 1981. The disease appeared to be deadly, and it was thought-to-be confined to homosexual men. In fact, it was initially called Gay Related Immune Deficiency or GRID.  Although it was soon proven that this new immune deficiency disease was not limited to gay men, it is true that men who had sex with men (MSM) accounted for most of the early cases.  In the 1970’s there were several reports that MSM had a high incidence of hepatitis B.  For the initial clinical trial of the then new hepatitis B vaccine, MSM in New York City were selected as the study population because of their high risk for hepatitis B infection. In the trial about 27% of the unvaccinated population became infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) within 18 months, whereas less than 3% of the men who received the vaccine became infected over the same time interval.  This result proved the efficacy of the vaccine.

Fast forward to 1984 before the virus causing AIDS was clearly identified, several researchers suggested that a variant of hepatitis B was the cause. A group of investigators proposed a prospective study of MSM who had been tested for hepatitis B and a newly reported anti-HIV antibody, but who did not have immune deficiency disease.  By following the men over time, the thought was that it would be possible to observe which infection – HIV or hepatitis B or a combination of both – led to AIDS.

MSM were recruited from 4 cities in the USA (Baltimore, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles); thereafter called the Multicenter Cohort Study (MACS).  Over four time intervals from 1984 to 2002, 6972 MSM were enrolled.  The men were followed until 2010, on average for more than 8 years. Serum samples were collected every 6 months, frozen and stored.  Although the hepatitis C virus had not yet been identified in 1984, all the samples were later tested for HIV, HBV and hepatitis C virus (HCV).  All deaths were recorded as were all liver related deaths.

The results were surprising. Comparable numbers of men were infected with HBV and HCV, but MSM with chronic hepatitis B were twice as likely to die a liver related death as the men with chronic hepatitis C.  The statistical analyses were carefully done to account for the treatments of HCV, HBV, and HIV that were used during the course of the study.  Immunodeficiency further increased the risk of liver death in the men with hepatitis B over that in the men with chronic hepatitis C.

The study showed that in the two and a half decades after 1984, hepatitis B infection was more serious than hepatitis C. Now, in 2012, this difference is even greater. Chronic hepatitis C has become a curable disease.  Chronic hepatitis B is manageable, but not yet curable.  This means that hepatitis B, which was already a worse disease than hepatitis C before the new therapies for HCV, is now a much more important unsolved health problem.

– Dr. Tom London

World Hepatitis Day Reflection: Asian Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad Pakistan

Thank you to Prof., Dr. Muhammad Sadik Memon, MBBS, FCPS (Gastro), FCPS (Med), MACP, MAGA,  for his personal reflection from World Hepatitis Day, 2012 events in Pakistan.

In order to raise awareness on World Hepatitis  Day, Saturday, 28th of July 2012, the Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology of the Asian Institute Of Medical Sciences, organized a public awareness and open discussion seminar.

Gastroenterologists, family physicians, GPs, postgraduate students and para- medical staff all participated in the open discussion.

The program was started in the name of “Almighty Allah” and a recitation from the Holy Quran.

Dr Iqbal Haroon, Director of Hajiyani Hospital, was the moderator of the open discussion.

“It  is closer than you think” was the theme of this year’s World Hepatitis Day, and the open discussion focused on raising awareness on the different forms of viral  hepatitis: what they are, how they are transmitted, who is at risk, and the various methods of prevention and treatment.

Professor, Dr. Sadik  Memon, organizer of this event,  said that in Pakistan, many patients have lost their lives at the hands of quacks, so Pakistan needs the strictest possible laws to fight against these quacks, and must eradicate these deadly liver diseases.

Dr. Sadik Memon further described how in Pakistan millions of people are infected with HBV . He added that every 10th to 12th individual in the Pakistani population is infected with hepatitis B or C ,which far exceeds the numbers from the last big earthquake  in Pakistan. It is essential that Pakistani doctors unite to save human lives and spare them of these deadly diseases.

The most important aspects of prevention are hepatitis B vaccination, the screening of blood products, sterilized equipments and better hygiene standards in barber shops.

Dr. Waqar, focal person of the Government Hepatitis Program, discussed the efforts of the Sindh government regarding the hepatitis program.  He said that thousands of peoples from Sindh are receiving free interferon and anti- viral therapy from Zakat and Bait-ul-mal funds.

Before the end of open discussion Dr. Aamir Ghouri gave thanks to the audience, the guests of honor, and also the Roche Pharmaceutical company for sponsoring such a wonderful event in this blessed Month of Razman.

After completing the open discussion, DUA, (prayer) was performed for patients who are suffering from liver diseases by the Asian  Institute of Medical Sciences staff. Another open discussion was followed by Iftaar dinner. It was a memorable World Hepatitis Day.

Simple Impediments to Hepatitis B and C Screening

There was an article in the Baltimore Sun a couple of weeks ago that discussed screening for hepatitis B and C.  Approximately 600 million people around the world and five million people in the U.S. are infected with viral hepatitis. According to the Annals of internal Medicine, the CDC reports that there are more deaths attributed to HCV than HIV in the U.S.

The Baltimore doctor believes that ideally, everyone should be tested for hepatitis B and C. Although he is not alone in his thinking, there are many physicians that may not be as aware of the need for screening, and even those in high risk groups may be inadvertently missed. And should a physician decide to screen, there is no ICD code, or International Classification of Diseases code for high-risk based HCV or HBV screening. Insurance companies use these codes to determine if services and payment is warranted. An insurance company may actually deny payment for HBV or HCV testing if they do not believe there is a valid reason for screening.  For example, elevated ALT levels might prompt a physician to “legitimately” screen for viral hepatitis. There is also no problem with ICD codes if you are already diagnosed with HBV or HCV, but you can’t readily be screened using a convenient code. Viral hepatitis does not discriminate. There are certainly high risk groups where HBV or HCV may be more prevalent, but that should not discourage a doctor from screening a patient if she feels it is warranted.

How might a doctor get around a lack of adequate diagnostic codes? We asked a physician who cares for Asian-Americans. This group is at particular risk for HBV infection and should be screened whether they have elevated ALTs or not. He circumvents the lack of an official ICD code with a work-around. He uses the “CMS code V15.85 – Contact with and (suspected) exposure to potentially hazardous body fluids”. This works, but some physicians may not be as comfortable as others with this work-around. Sadly, this likely equates to fewer across-the board screenings for hepatitis B and C.

New HCV testing recommendations are to be released sometime this year by the CDC, and the US Preventive Services Task Force will weigh in on the HCV screening debate as well. Thus, there might be an ICD code for routine HCV screening code available in the near future. Despite established HBV screening guidelines, there are currently no ICD codes for routine HBV screening and to my knowledge, none are to be proposed. Would more patients be routinely screened for HBV if the process were more straight forward? Probably. It is unfortunate that an important screening may be impeded by the lack of a simple diagnostic code. Naturally this is not the only problem, but it is one that should be easy to resolve.

If you think you are at risk for HBV, or wish to be screened for HBV, please tell your doctor that you want to be sure about your HBV status. If you insist, I’m sure he will comply with your wishes and work around any issues regarding inadequate diagnostic screening codes for hepatitis B. Speak up and be your own advocate!

Action Alert! Urge Members of Congress to Include Viral Hepatitis Funding in Programmatic Requests

If you read Hepbtalk’s blog last week summarizing the Viral Hepatitis Policy Summit, you know that it will take efforts from all advocacy organizations and people like YOU telling your story and asking that money be dedicated to viral hepatitis. Please get involved. We need YOUR help!

 

On February 13, 2012, President Obama kicked off the Fiscal Year 2013 appropriations process with the release of his budget proposal.  The President’s FY2013 budget flat funds the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH) at the total funding level of FY2012 – including the $10 million from the Prevention and Public Health Fund.  We need your help in raising awareness among Members of Congress about viral hepatitis and asking their support for increased funding for viral hepatitis activities at the federal level.  Viral hepatitis advocates are urging for protection of the President’s request and an increase to $59.8 million for DVH, which is $30.1 million more than the current funding level of $29.7 million.

In the next 2-3 weeks, all Senators and Representatives will write their “programmatic appropriations request letters,” which ask members of the Appropriations Subcommittees (who put together the federal funding legislation) to include funding for their priorities. The more Members of Congress that include a request for hepatitis funding in their letters, the greater the likelihood the Appropriators will include additional funding in FY2013.

Viral hepatitis impacts over 5.3 million people nationwide. With a lack of a comprehensive surveillance system, these estimates are likely only the tip of the iceberg and 75% of those infected do not know their status. Even with these daunting figures, there are only $29.7 million in federal funding dedicated to fund viral hepatitis activities nationwide at the CDC.  Members of Congress need to know that viral hepatitis is a concern in their district, that their constituents are being affected and that this is an issue they need to care about. We need you to tell your story and ask your elected representatives to take action by March 20.

Step-by-step instructions on what to do are below:

  1.  Determine what Members of Congress to contact.  You should contact your personal Member of the House of Representatives and two Senators.  You should also contact other House Members in areas where your organization is located or provides services.  To determine who your Representative is please go to www.house.gov and type in your zip code(s); to determine who your Senators are go to www.senate.gov and select your state from the drop down menu.
  2.  Call the Members’ Offices to get the name and correct spelling of their health staff person.  Email the staff using the draft email text below.  House staff emails are First.Last@mail.house.gov (john.smith@mail.house.gov) Senate staff emails are First_Last@Last name of Senator.Senate.gov (john_smith@doe.senate.gov)

Sample email:

Your Name

State and Zip code

Dear (Name of Health Staffer):

My name is ____________ and I live in City/State. I am writing to urge Representative/Senator________________ to include funding for viral hepatitis in his/her Fiscal Year 2012 programmatic appropriations request letter.  [Include brief details on the impact of viral hepatitis on yourself or describe your organization].

There are over 5.3 million Americans impacted by viral hepatitis but the only dedicated federal funding stream provides a mere $29.8 million through CDC.  This is insufficient to provide the most basic public health services such as education, counseling, testing, or medical management for people living with or at risk of viral hepatitis.

I urge Representative/Senator ___________ to support the President’s budget request of $29.8 million for FY2013 and increase the request to a total of $59.8 million for the Division of Viral Hepatitis to effectively combat these epidemics.  I will be following up with you in the near future to discuss this request.  In the meantime, feel free to contact me with questions.

Thank you again for consideration of my request.

Your Name

  1. Follow-up with the staff you have emailed with a phone call to confirm they received the request and to determine when they may have an answer from their bosses as to whether or not they will include a hepatitis funding request in their Appropriation programmatic request letter.  If asked, make it clear to the staff that this is a program request and NOT a project request (i.e. money for a district specific project like a bridge, hospital or university).  You may need to follow-up again around the time the staff says they will have an answer from their chain of command.
  2. If you need assistance or want to talk through the process please email or call Oscar Mairena at (202) 434-8058 or omairena@NASTAD.org. If the staff member requests “report language” or “program language,” please contact Oscar and he will provide that for you. Please also share positive responses with the Hepatitis Appropriations Partnership by contacting Oscar.

Oscar Mairena

Senior Associate, Viral Hepatitis/Policy and Legislative Affairs

National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD)

444 North Capitol Street NW, Suite 339

Washington, DC  20001

Phone: (202) 434.8058      Fax: (202) 434.8092

omairena@NASTAD.org     www.NASTAD.org

“Bridging Science, Policy, and Public Health”

 

Reflection on 2012 Viral Hepatitis Policy Summit Meetings in D.C.

L-R Daniel Raymond, NVHR Chair, Congressional Champion Staffers: Jirair Ratevosian (Congresswoman Barbara Lee), Philip Schmidt (Congressman Joe Serrano), Adrienne Hallett (Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Harkin)

Earlier this week, I attended the 2012 Viral Hepatitis Policy Summit held in Washington D.C. The audience at the summit is viral hepatitis advocates for both hepatitis B and C. With the recent data on deaths from HCV surpassing those from HIV, and with an arsenal of new, effective drugs, HCV is clearly in the forefront of discussions at this time. Since my personal experience is HBVpatient oriented, I always struggle with keeping up with the details of the meetings, but I suspect most people reading this blog are in the same place, so I’ll try to make the take home message as simple as possible.

The first day was held at NASTAD with visits from Dr. John Ward of the CDC, Division of Viral Hepatitis, and from Dr. Ron Valdiserri and Corinna Dan of the Health and Human Services (HSS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases.  Everyone is anxiously awaiting the release of the CDCs updated hepatitis C screening recommendations. They will be coming out later than expected, and that is unfortunate because it is hoped they will be released in time to help drive the guidelines written by (US Preventive Services  Task Force)USPSTF, which helps determine what procedures will ultimately be covered by Medicare (and paid for by private insurance  companies as well.) As of now, it doesn’t look like the USPSTF guidelines will include HCV testing for high-risk individuals, so it is hoped that the CDC recommendations will counter these guidelines to help improve future HCV screening rates in the U.S. This potential time bomb was a source of conflict throughout the entire two days of the summit.

The other hot button was the $10million that was allotted to the Division of Viral Hepatitis  to carry out all tasks viral hepatitis oriented. I’m no accountant, but there’s a lot of work to be done and $10M is not that much money in the scheme of things. How will this money best be put to use – collecting surveillance data, running screening programs, linkage to care for those who test positive, HBV vaccinations…the list goes on. And the money must be carefully monitored and be associated with a successful program if we are to warrant additional future funding. One message was made clear – advocate groups had best collaborate and be very creative in order to make things happen on the viral hepatitis front. I believe this is true, but it’s hard to make things happen without money to build the infrastructure or put these programs into place.

The second day was held at the Rayburn building, which is one of the Congressional office buildings. There was a full day of presentations, starting with visits from some of viral hepatitis’s champions in Congress including Congressman Honda (CA), Congressman Dent (PA) and Congresswoman Judy Chu (CA). There are other champions in Congress, but we need more if we are to make a dent in the viral hepatitis problems. That’s where the work of the advocates and those living with hepatitis come into play. You need to get involved and make your state Representative understand how serious viral hepatitis is in his or her district.

There were various panels throughout the day including a panel of staff from some of the viral hepatitis Congressional champions, guests from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and an informal discussion with DC based policy experts on working with the Administration and Congress. Then there were the discussions of fiscal year 2013, appropriations discussions, a discussion of viral hepatitis testing and health care reform and how it applies to viral hepatitis. That’s a mouth full. I spent a lot of the day trying to figure out what money was really available, where it came from, and which pots of money were in jeopardy of disappearing. It’s complicated, and I’m not going to pretend to really understand it. There’s the President’s budget and what he recommends.  Budgets need to be passed by the House and the Senate, which is very tough these days with the political and fiscal climate on the Hill.

I don’t believe it’s necessary for the average American living with viral hepatitis to talk-the-talk and track the pots of money that may or may not ever be dedicated to viral hepatitis. Your Congress person is under a lot of pressure to make fiscal decisions based on the needs of his or her constituents.  We were told they literally enter their top picks into the computer on where they think money should be spent. It is our job to see that viral hepatitis is on the list. One of the staff members noted how important a number of small splashes are compared to a big splash that may occur with large, media driven events. He gave a take home message that even I can understand. As viral hepatitis advocates or patients living with hepatitis, if just one person from each district were to contact his Representative and drive home the importance of funding for viral hepatitis, it would make a difference. We need to put viral hepatitis on the radar of our Representatives and our Senators. Few politicians are knowledgeable about viral hepatitis. Individual efforts would go a long way towards educating and raising awareness of the people that are representing us in office. Make the story personal. Let them know the cost of treatment is nothing compared to the cost and burden of transplantation.  Make viral hepatitis part of their vocabulary and put a face on it.

The final message I got, which is more patient oriented, was based on a side discussion about what happens after testing guidelines are established. For example, there are testing guidelines for HBV, and yet even those in high risk groups may not be getting tested, nor are they vaccinated. One physician recommended that as advocates, we need to stress the importance of these guidelines to the professional associations to which our doctors belong. That is the job of advocacy organizations like the Hepatitis B Foundation and others. However, ask around and see if you, or friends and loved ones are being screened for diseases such as HBV, HIV or HCV.  Does your doctor ask you if you are foreign born, or if you travel frequently to developing nations?  Does he spend enough time with you to know about your lifestyle and whether it might put you at risk? Most likely, your doctor does not know if you are willingly or unwillingly involved in activities that may increase your risk for HBV. It’s yet another reason why it’s so important for patients to get involved in their own care and offer up information that might make your doctor consider preventive screening. And if all else fails, ask your doctor about being screened for HBV, HCV or HIV if you believe you are at risk.

 

Love Safely This Valentine’s Day

Please be sure to love safely this Valentine’s Day.  Are you living with HBV or hoping to avoid living with HBV? HBV is a vaccine preventable disease that is effectively transmitted sexually. If you are not infected with HBV, why not get vaccinated and protect yourself for life? The HBV vaccine is a safe and effective, 3 shot series. If you think you might be in a high risk group for HBV, talk to your doctor about first being screened for HBV before being vaccinated.

If you already have HBV, the vaccine won’t protect you. You need to talk to your doctor about your HBV status and whether or not you would benefit from treatment at this time (Not everyone needs treatment, but you need blood work interpreted by an HBV knowledgeable doctor to be sure).

Show the love by protecting yourself and your sexual partners by wearing a condom. They protect the mouth, vagina or rectum from infected semen if used consistently and correctly.  Keep in mind that the riskiest sexual activity is unprotected receptive anal intercourse. This is because the lining of the rectum is very thin and more likely to bleed leading to the possibility of infection with blood borne pathogens like HBV, HCV and HIV, along with other sexually transmitted diseases. Receptive vaginal intercourse is the next highest risk. Although the lining of the vagina is stronger than the rectum, inflammation, infection, or microscopic scrapes make the vagina vulnerable to unprotected intercourse. The likelihood of blood borne pathogen transmission with oral sex is least risky, but that is because the risk of blood contact is much lower. However, any kind of intimate sharing of bodily fluids presents some degree of risk of transmitting blood borne pathogens like HBV, HCV and HIV, and may effectively transmit other sexually transmitted diseases.

It’s important if you’re living with HBV, not living with HBV, or not quite sure of your infectious disease status. If you are living with HBV, properly wearing a condom keeps you safe from becoming co-infected with another infectious disease. No one wants a co-infection.  It complicated and dangerous for your health.  If you do not have HBV, then avoid getting an infection by you or your partner wearing a condom. HBV is vaccine preventable, but HCV, HIV and other STDs are not vaccine preventable. Considering the health and safety of yourself and your sexual partners is paramount. You may not know what they have, and they may not know what you have. Why take the risk? Love safely, get vaccinated against HBV, and wear a condom consistently and correctly. “Share affection, not infection”.

Considering the Transmission of HBV Through Tattooing or Piercing

This month’s Clinical Infectious Diseases evaluated the transmission of HCV through tattooing and piercing. It is important to note that HBV is also of great concern when considering a tattoo or piercing. Unless you are vaccinated against hepatitis B, you are at risk for HBV if you are tattooed or pierced under unsterile conditions. The net-net is if you have a tattoo or piercing in a professional parlor – one that follows infection control practices and uses single-use items whenever possible and sterilizes re-used equipment using ultrasonic cleaning and sterilization with an autoclave , there does not appear to be an increased risk, though additional study is warranted. However, tattoos or piercings in prisons, or other settings that are not performed under sterile conditions are a serious danger.

The process of tattooing entails repeated injections of tiny drops of ink. That’s thousands of tiny needle sticks per minute, and a very effective transmission route for blood borne pathogens like HBV, HCV and HIV. This does not mean getting a tattoo will expose you to infectious disease, but if you choose a tattoo parlor that is not well regulated and safely follows all infection control practices, then you greatly increase your risk of infection.

Here’s the problem with tattoo parlors in the United States. They are not carefully or consistently regulated. There are no federal regulations. For the most part they are state regulated, with each state having its own rules and regulations.  Regulated states require that tattoo parlors have permits, and be inspected. Who inspects the parlor? – Sometimes it’s the State Department of Health, and sometimes it’s the local health department, so the inspections vary. There are some states with local regulations within the state, and even a few states with NO regulations. That is worrisome and dangerous. What are the rules and regulations for your state on this unofficial list? (Please read the site disclaimer) Do the research on the rules in regulations in your state, or city before looking for a tattoo parlor.

What does this mean if you’re considering a tattoo? Your tattoo is a personal decision that will live with you for the rest of your life. You don’t want to contract an infectious disease that may also live with you for the rest of your life and potentially threatens your life.  Shop for a clean, parlor that treats each tattoo like a mini, out-patient procedure – with all infection control practices followed. You want a tattoo parlor that uses single-use needles, ink, ink cups, and gloves. You want to see these tools come out of their sterile packaging –right in front of your eyes. You want a tattoo parlor with a functioning, inspected autoclave so that re-usable tools such as tattoo machines and needle bars can be properly sterilized. You want a tattoo parlor that is clean and an artist that washes his hands and wears gloves. If the shop is dirty, keep looking.  Speak up and ask the artist questions about his shop and his infection control practices. Don’t forget to ask to see the autoclave. If anything makes you wary about the visit, look else-where.

 

Hepatitis Health Action Alert: Stop the Attacks on Prevention and Public Health Fund

Action Alert! The Hepatitis Community Responds to Health Care Reform. Tell Congress Not To Cut The Prevention and Public Health Fund

The Prevention and Public Health Fund is under attack in Congress once again. Some leaders in the House of Representatives would like to make drastic cuts to the Fund as part of negotiations on a long-term deal on the payroll tax cut and Medicare payments rates to medical providers.

The Prevention and Public Health Fund, part of the Affordable Care Act, provides money each year for vital prevention and public health services. The fund will grow each year until it eventually provides $2 billion/year.

This fund is extremely important to the nation’s fight against the viral hepatitis epidemic. Later this year, the Department of Health and Human Services is expected to allocate $10 million from the Fund for viral hepatitis screening, testing, and education programs. This initiative will greatly help efforts to identify the millions of Americans who have chronic hepatitis B or C and link them to care and treatment.

Please take a few minutes to call Congress in support of this lifesaving program!

What YOU can DO:

Please call your U.S. House Representative and two U.S. Senators immediately. We are hearing directly from Congressional staff that phone calls are the most effective form of communication. 

Call the Capitol Switchboard toll-free at 1-888-876-6242 and ask to be connected to your United States Representative. When you reach your Representative’s office, tell whoever answers the phone that you are a constituent and that you would like to speak to the staff person who handles health care issues. Whether you speak to the staff person live or leave a voicemail, tell him/her:

“My name is _______________ and I live in (city/state). I am calling in strong support of the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which is an important part of the Affordable Care Act. This Fund is a great opportunity to provide badly needed funding for viral hepatitis prevention, testing, and screening programs and must be preserved. I urge Representative_____________ to oppose any efforts to cut the Fund as part of the payroll tax/Medicare physician reimbursement negotiations.”

After you speak to your Representative’s office, call the Capitol Switchboard again and deliver the same message to the health care staff person in your two U.S. Senators’ office.

Thank you for taking the time to make a difference! Please spread the word.

Get involved with Hepatitis Health Action!

  • Join Hepatitis Health Action’s Facebook group:  http://tinyurl.com/hephealthfacebook where you can participate in discussions with other advocates and share your ideas and strategies.

Hepatitis Health Action is a campaign led by viral hepatitis advocates working to make sure that health care reform addresses hepatitis B and C.