October 23, 2013
New York, NY -- Today Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation requiring primary care providers and hospitals to offer hepatitis C screening to all baby boomers. Baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1965) account for over 70 percent of the estimated 3 to 4 million Americans living with hepatitis C and are at the greatest risk of developing advanced liver disease. The hepatitis C baby boomer screening bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski (D-New City) and Senate Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau), and passed in June unanimously in the Senate and by a 138-1 vote in the Assembly.
Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver disease, and deaths from hepatitis C-related liver disease now exceed HIV mortality. Yet the vast majority of people with chronic hepatitis C have never been diagnosed. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) now recommend that all persons born during 1945-1965 receive one-time screening for hepatitis C. With the passage of this legislation, New York State leads the nation in implementing these guidelines and closing the hepatitis C diagnosis gap.
"We commend Governor Cuomo, Assemblyman Zebrowski and Senator Hannon for their leadership and vision in addressing a serious public health threat to New Yorkers," said Hadiyah Charles, Hepatitis C Advocacy Manager for the Harm Reduction Coalition. "Hepatitis C is curable -- but you can't be treated if you've never been diagnosed. We hope that within a few years, we'll be able to say that this legislation -- along with the New York City Department of Health's new Hepatitis C Action Plan -- marked the beginning of the end of the hepatitis C epidemic in New York."
The Harm Reduction Coalition will monitor and support the implementation of this bill, in parallel with other hepatitis C advocacy priorities: preventing a new wave of infections among young opioid injectors, supporting community-based testing and patient navigation programs, addressing health disparities in African American communities, and ensuring access to quality care and effective treatment for all.
"This legislation is a testament to the passion and hard work of a growing and diverse hepatitis C advocacy movement in New York," stated Hadiyah Charles. "We look forward to working with our advocacy partners to build on this momentum to prevent new infections, save lives, and ensure New York's place in history as a national leader in ending the hepatitis C epidemic."