NMAC Marks World Hepatitis Day

July 28, 2011

NMAC Marks World Hepatitis Day

Urges Everyone to Get Tested, Educate Themselves

Washington, DC — Today, the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) is proud to stand with the international public health community in marking World Hepatitis Day. Viral hepatitis impacts hundreds of millions of people world wide, killing as many as a million annually. In the United States, the most common of all bloodborne infections is Hepatitis C. World Hepatitis Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness both of the epidemic’s toll and ways individuals can protect themselves from infection.

“Viral hepatitis is a devastating disease in its own right, affecting more than 3.5 million people in the U.S.,” said NMAC Deputy Executive Director Daniel C. Montoya. “But because of similar transmission methods and risk factors, viral hepatitis is often accompanied by HIV. In fact, one-third of people living with HIV are co-infected with hepatitis. At the same time, hepatitis infection itself increases an individual’s risk of contracting HIV. We must recognize the connection between these epidemics and coordinate our efforts to effectively mitigate the impact of both.”

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), an estimated 3.5-5.3 million people are living with viral hepatitis in the United States. What’s more, anywhere from 65 to 75 percent of those living with the virus are unaware, increasing the likelihood that they might transmit the infection to others. Those at greatest risk for infection are intravenous drug users and gay men and other men who have sex with men. Minorities, particularly African Americans and Asian and Pacific Islanders are also disproportionately impacted.

“NMAC believes that we cannot effectively address the disproportionate impact HIV/AIDS has on minority communities, without also addressing the many other health disparities they face, including viral hepatitis,” continued Montoya. “On this World Hepatitis Day, NMAC reaffirms its support for HHS’ Action Plan for the Prevention, Care & Treatment of Viral Hepatitis, and urges the rest of the HIV community and the broader public health community to do the same. We also urge all Americans to get tested and learn what they can do to limit their risk of contracting viral hepatitis.”

For more information about World Hepatitis Day, visit the World Health Organization’s website at www.who.int.