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Hepatitis B Leaders Call for the Elimination of Hepatitis B

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 2018) – Hep B United, a national coalition established by the Hepatitis B Foundation (HBF) and the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO) to address the silent epidemic of hepatitis B, hosts its sixth annual summit in Washington, D.C., July 24 to 26. The summit brings together community leaders, advocates and people with hepatitis B to promote screening and prevention strategies and advocate for equitable access to health care to further its mission to eliminate hepatitis B in the United States.

Hepatitis B is caused by a virus and is the world’s most common, serious liver infection. It is also the deadliest vaccine-preventable disease, with nearly 1 million people dying each year from hepatitis B-related disease worldwide. In the United States, up to 2.2 million Americans are chronically infected with hepatitis B, yet most do not know it. Without early diagnosis and intervention, one in four people living with hepatitis B will die prematurely from liver failure or liver cancer.

"The annual Hep B United Summit is an important way for us to share strategies and resources as we work towards eliminating hepatitis B-related health disparities among highly impacted communities in the U.S.”, said Chari Cohen, DrPH, MPH, vice president for public health and programs of the Hepatitis B Foundation and co-chair of Hep B United.

The Hep B United summit is the largest convening of hepatitis B leaders from community coalitions, national nonprofit organizations, individuals and family members affected by hepatitis B, and public health agencies in the United States. The summit is part of global events to mark World Hepatitis Day, observed each year on July 28. Meeting sessions will focus on improving access to hepatitis B treatment, preventing perinatal transmission, combating hepatitis B-related stigma and discrimination, and discussing the “Know Hepatitis B” campaign, which was developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and co-branded with Hep B United.

The summit includes visits to Capitol Hill, as leaders in the fight against hepatitis B tell federal legislators of the critical need for resources to support research for hepatitis B and liver cancer, education, screening and treatment programs. The coalition will also host a Congressional reception on July 25 to recognize Congressional and community champions and highlight the Hepatitis B Foundation’s campaign, “#justB: Real People Sharing Their Stories of Hepatitis B.” The #justB Storytelling Campaign tells the personal stories of people affected by hepatitis B to increase public awareness.

"The work of Hep B United coalition partners across the country over the years has helped to ensure that new cases of hepatitis B are prevented and that persons who are already infected get the care they need. This Summit is an opportunity for us both to commemorate the progress we've made and to recommit to our shared goal of ending this hidden epidemic,” said Jeffrey Caballero, MPH, AAPCHO executive director and Hep B United co-chair.

Hep B United brings together more than 36 community coalition members across the country located in 28 cities, 19 states, and Washington, D.C. The coalition focuses its work primarily in the disproportionately impacted Asian American and Pacific Islander communities (AAPI). AAPIs make up 50% of the hepatitis B burden in the U.S. and have liver cancer rates that are up to 13 times higher than Caucasian populations.

During the reception, Hep B United will present an inaugural Hepatitis B Congressional Champion Award to Hawaii Senator Mazie K. Hirono. The coalition will also present three community leaders with the 2018 Hep B Champion Awards in recognition of their collaborative and successful initiatives to address hepatitis B in their communities:

Arman Altug, MSW (Seattle, WA), Hep B Program Manager and Outreach Specialist at the Hepatitis Education Project (HEP) is recognized for his outreach and dedication to medically-underserved communities in Seattle. Arman has worked on medical case management to increasing education and awareness about hepatitis B in Washington state prisons. He has been committed to expanding access to health care and hepatitis B services to immigrant and refugee communities.

Charles B. Wang Community Health Center (New York, NY), a federally qualified health center providing high quality and affordable health care to the underserved, with a focus on Asian Americans in New York City, is recognized for their long-time commitment and excellence in hepatitis B prevention and care. CBW has been a health care leader in addressing hepatitis B and has developed a comprehensive model program to expand hepatitis B testing, vaccination, and treatment services, including the development of an innovative “Hep B Moms” program. This successful program serves as a model in preventing and eliminating perinatal transmission of hepatitis B.

Kenson and Rensely Alik (Honolulu, HI), hepatitis B patient advocates and #justB storytellers, are recognized for their leadership and commitment to addressing hepatitis B in Pacific Islander communities. Kenson was diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B in 2009 and received a liver transplant in 2011. Kenson’s and Rensely’s strength and support for each other through the pre- and post- transplant period is what helped their family overcome the many challenges and financial barriers they faced during this difficult time. They are now passionate about sharing their experience and educating communities about hepatitis B, liver failure, and liver cancer in hopes of preventing other families from going through the same hardships. Soon after Kenson’s recovery, he and Rensely launched the Micronesian Education for Liver Wellness Program (MELWP), in collaboration with Hep Free Hawaii, to increase hepatitis B awareness among Micronesian communities living in Hawaii, which has the highest rate of liver cancer in the United States. MELWP provides free in-language educational events, materials, and resources, as well as individual support and counseling.

About Hepatitis B: Hepatitis B is the world’s most common serious liver infection and the primary cause of liver cancer, which is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the world. Two billion people (1 in 3) have been infected with the hepatitis B virus, more than 292 million are chronically infected, and almost 1 million people die each year from hepatitis B-related liver failure and liver cancer. In the U.S., one in 20 Americans has been infected with hepatitis B, and up to 2.2 million are chronically infected. The hepatitis B virus is transmitted through blood, unprotected sex, unsterile needles, and from an infected mother to her newborn during delivery. Although hepatitis B is preventable and treatable, there is still no complete cure for this deadly liver infection.

About Hep B United: Hep B United is a national coalition established by the Hepatitis B Foundation and the Association of Asian and Pacific Community Health Organizations to address the public health challenge of hepatitis B by increasing awareness, screening, vaccination and linkage to care for all Americans, with a particular focus on Asian-American and Pacific Islander populations that are disproportionately impacted. To learn more, visit www.hepbunited.org.

About the Hepatitis B Foundation: The Hepatitis B Foundation is the nation’s leading nonprofit 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 www.hepb.org, read our blog at hepb.org/blog, follow us on Twitter @HepBFoundation, find us on Facebook at facebook.com/hepbfoundation or call 215-489-4900.

About the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organization: The Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organization (AAPCHO) is a national association of community health organizations dedicated to promoting advocacy, collaboration, and leadership that improves the health status and access of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiian, and other Pacific Islanders in the United States. To learn more, visit www.aapcho.org.

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