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Hep B United Commemorates World Hepatitis Day, July 28

Hep B United Commemorates World Hepatitis Day, July 28

Published
July 28, 2023
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National partners convene in Washington, D.C., for 11th Annual Summit. Photo by Amy Trang, PhD, MEd, Hep B United.

Hep B United, a national coalition established by the Hepatitis B Foundation and the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations (AAPCHO) to address the epidemic of hepatitis B, hosted its 11th annual summit in Washington, D.C., July 24-25. The summit brought together nearly 100 community leaders, advocates, clinicians, federal partners and people living with hepatitis B to discuss strategies and challenges towards eliminating hepatitis B in the U.S.

The world’s most common serious liver infection, chronic hepatitis B, is caused by a virus that attacks and injures the liver. Almost 300 million people worldwide and 2.4 million people in the U.S. have chronic hepatitis B. Each year up to 1 million people die from hepatitis B worldwide, even though it is preventable and treatable. If untreated, hepatitis B can lead to liver cancer, which is one of the deadliest cancers worldwide.

Since 2013, International Community Health Services has led the work of the Hepatitis B Coalition of Washington (HBCW), which was created in 1997 and was formerly known as the Washington State Asian Pacific Islander Hepatitis B Task Force. HBCW works with community based organizations, community clinics, health care facilities and health departments to foster hepatitis B-related care through educational outreach, testing and improving linkage to care services.

At the 2023 Summit, participants discussed innovative local and national programs to prevent, diagnose and treat hepatitis B. Discussions focused on strategies to disseminate and implement the new universal adult hepatitis B testing and vaccination recommendations, while also ensuring that we continue to work towards addressing hepatitis B and liver cancer related health disparities among disproportionately impacted communities. Summit participants identified critical needs for improving the hepatitis B care cascade in the U.S. This includes the need for point-of-care testing for hepatitis B, increased access to vaccine, capacity building and support for disseminating and publishing community-based data, and enhanced training and support for patient navigators. The Summit also featured people living with hepatitis B, to discuss the role of storytelling in increasing public awareness and combatting stigma and discrimination.

Importantly, the Summit provided an opportunity to highlight the critical role that people with lived experience play as we strive to eliminate hepatitis B. Participants discussed a powerful new Patient Declaration published in the Journal of Viral Hepatitis by co-authors Dr. Su Wang, Director of the Center for Asian Health at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center, and Mr. Danjuma Adda, President of the World Hepatitis Alliance.

“People living with hepatitis B deserve a voice at the table and should be included in clinical and research discussions that impact their lives,” Dr. Wang said.

Partners in the room concluded that expanded and simplified hepatitis B treatment guidelines are needed and decision makers must integrate patient preferences and quality of life assessment into the medical management of hepatitis B.

Aligning with the Patient Declaration, the Hepatitis B Foundation released a video to highlight some of the patients’ demands.

At the end of the two-day meeting, Hep B United partners hosted an awareness event in front of the White House, carrying signs such as “We Are Fighting 4 Our Lives” and “Hep B Can’t Wait.”

“This was an ideal way to commemorate World Hepatitis Day, and an opportunity to spotlight the needs of people living with hepatitis B, and generate action towards prioritization hepatitis B, hepatitis D and liver cancer as urgent health priorities,” stated Dr. Chari Cohen, President of the Hepatitis B Foundation.

During the Summit, HBU hosted a Community Reception, and were honored to have opening remarks made by the Honorable Hank Johnson, from Georgia’s Fourth Congressional District, co-chair of the Hepatitis Caucus, and supporter of Hep B United’s vision of a future free of hepatitis B. HBU also conferred Legacy Awards to the following people for their outstanding contributions to communities impacted by hepatitis B: Joan Block, co-founder and past Executive Director of the Hepatitis B Foundation; Cynthia Jorgensen, former Lead for Education, Communication and Training at the CDC Division of Viral Hepatitis and primary architect of the multi-lingual Know Hepatitis B campaign; and Jane Pan, former Executive Director of HBI-DC. HBU also conferred the Hep B United Congressional Champion Award to Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01).

World Hepatitis Day is observed each year on July 28. That is the birthday of Dr. Baruch Blumberg, Nobel Laureate who discovered the hepatitis B virus and developed the first vaccine.

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