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Hepatitis B Foundation Joins Forces with Grace Meng and NYC Hep B Coalition to Promote Awareness in Asian American Community

Meng Lauded for Leadership in Hep B Cure Campaign

FLUSHING, NY (May 2, 2018) – The Hepatitis B Foundation (HBF) and the New York City Hep B Coalition, founded by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, co-sponsored a community forum on “Eliminating Hepatitis B in New York City,” at the Flushing Branch of the Queens Library in Flushing, NY.

U.S. Representative Grace Meng (D-6th CD, Queens), the keynote speaker, stated that “hepatitis B is a major health issue that disproportionately impacts Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI).” Meng added that “the virus can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer if left untreated. That is why it’s critical for AAPI communities to become more aware of hepatitis B, and the importance of getting tested. I hope that this forum will help accomplish that goal, and I encourage my constituents to attend.”

Ms. Meng, who co-chairs the Congressional Hepatitis Caucus, pointed out that her congressional district is 42% Asian American and in Flushing, Asian Americans make up 67% (48,500) of her constituents. “I am deeply concerned that most people living with chronic hepatitis B are not aware that they have this life-threatening infection, and most of those who have been diagnosed are not being treated” said Meng. “I hope that this forum will help get the word out and begin to turn that around and I believe this can be achieved with the excellent healthcare resources we have at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Centers and many other health professionals, and with citywide and community-based members of the NYC Hep B coalition committed to eliminating hepatitis B.”

Dr. Ann Winters, Medical Director of the Viral Hepatitis Program at New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said that the department is working to ensure that all New Yorkers at risk are screened for hepatitis B, including the uninsured.
“We urge providers to screen patients from countries with high prevalence for hepatitis,” said Winters. “Patients diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B should have a complete medical evaluation including an evaluation for fibrosis, should receive antiviral treatment if indicated, and should be screened for hepatocellular carcinoma according to guidelines. There are many programs in NYC that provide affordable care for the uninsured.”

The Hepatitis B Foundation’s (HBF) vice president for public policy, Alan P. Brownstein, supported Meng’s call for hepatitis B awareness, and pointed out “there is still no cure for hepatitis B.” He praised “Congresswoman Meng’s congressional leadership in the nationwide Hep B Cure Campaign.”

Brownstein presented HBF’s Hep B Cure Campaign, which features a “Roadmap for a Cure” based on priority research recommendations of top scientists convened by HBF. Brownstein said “Congresswoman Meng helped launch the Hep B Cure Campaign at a congressional briefing in Washington, D.C. last May. And in just one year, we were able to achieve:

• Congressional support for funding hepatitis B cure research;
• Support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for hepatitis B cure research; and,
• Publication of two scientific papers in prestigious medical journals on HBF’s ‘Roadmap for a Cure.”

Brownstein cautioned that ”this is just the beginning and we have defined what more needs to be done to accomplish our goal” concluding that “a cure for hepatitis B is a ‘winnable battle’ that will be accomplished with sustained science-driven advocacy.”

The cornerstone of the Hep B Cure Campaign is a consensus “Roadmap for a Cure” that is contained in reports developed by the Hepatitis B Foundation (HBF), which convened a virtual workshop of 35 of the world’s leading scientists to determine what research is needed to find a cure for hepatitis B. The two reports, “Research Priorities for the Discovery of a Cure for Chronic Hepatitis B: Report of a Workshop”(Antiviral Research, 2018)” and “A Research Agenda for Curing Chronic Hepatitis B Virus Infection,” (Hepatology, 2018) identify specific research projects in virology, immunology, and liver cancer, as well as strategies for expanding clinical research for therapeutic drug testing.

Despite the magnitude of hepatitis B, NIH funding for hepatitis B is only $49 million per year and has declined almost 16% since 2012. By applying the scientific projects identified into existing NIH research funding mechanisms, a “professional judgment budget” was developed, documenting the need for an estimated additional $39 million a year for six years over current NIH research funding for hepatitis B and liver cancer to fund the priority projects identified by HBF.

The Hepatitis B Forum in Flushing was opened by Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH, HBF’s vice president for public health, who cited statistics about chronic hepatitis B affecting 2 million Americans and 292 million worldwide, leading to nearly 800,000 deaths each year, primarily from liver cancer—the second leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. She also cited the recent reports from the World Health Organization (WHO, 2016) and the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM, 2017) declaring that with appropriate action, the elimination of hepatitis B is now possible. “Increased awareness and advocacy for a cure are necessary if we hope to eliminate hepatitis B,” said Dr. Cohen.

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About the Hepatitis B Foundation: The Hepatitis B Foundation is the leading national organization solely dedicated to finding a cure for hepatitis B and improving the quality of life for those affected worldwide through research, education and patient advocacy. To learn more, visit Web site - www.hepb.org; blog - hepb.org/blog; Twitter - @HepBFoundation; Facebook - facebook.com/hepbfoundation; or call, 215-489-4900.

About the NYC Hep B Coalition: The NYC HEP B Coalition coordinates efforts to prevent, manage and reduce hepatitis B among all residents of New York City. The coalition seeks to foster an inclusive collaboration among all stakeholders to advance hepatitis B awareness, screening, access to care, and vaccination through education, outreach, advocacy and support of research.