The Hepatitis C Epidemic: Where's the Leadership?
May 8, 2008
On May 19, 2008, Project Inform will join hepatitis advocates around the globe in recognizing "World Hepatitis Awareness Day." This day will highlight the severity of the hepatitis epidemic around the world through media campaigns, rallies, and educational events. We will also call on elected and administrative officials to take bold action in creating hepatitis education, prevention, diagnosis, care, and treatment programs.
In the United States, the statistics are staggering. There are an estimated 4 million people with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Most Americans living with the virus are unaware of their infection. In addition, 225,000 people living with HIV are coinfected with HCV.
However, the federal response to this epidemic has been abysmal and reminiscent of the early years of HIV/AIDS. President Bush has refused to offer a proclamation or statement recognizing any hepatitis awareness days. The entire federal budget for all viral hepatitis programs is a mere $17 million per year and the president has called for a cut in next year's funding. Only a handful of Members of Congress have cosponsored legislation to mount a comprehensive HCV testing and prevention strategy. There is no plan to deliver care and treatment to those who are uninsured. Media outlets around the country have refused to air a public service announcement about HCV because of the stigma associated with the disease.
In response to this failed leadership, Project Inform recently expanded our public policy agenda to include HCV advocacy. We participate in the "Hepatitis C Appropriations Partnership," a national coalition of advocates trying to secure increased federal funding for the disease. We have also joined the "California Hepatitis Alliance (CalHEP)," a statewide advocacy coalition working to improve California's response to hepatitis B and hepatitis C. We have taken a leadership role in CalHEP's San Francisco advocacy team and are currently developing a proposal for a local hepatitis task force that would advise the Mayor and other elected officials on HCV issues.
We have also brought our extensive grassroots organizing experience to the HCV movement. Last August, we cofounded "Hepatitis C Advocates UNITED!," the first national grassroots network focused on HCV. This network, now over 300 members strong, has brought together people with HCV, service providers, and other advocates to create grassroots strategies aimed at convincing Congress and the Bush Administration to provide funding and legislation needed to combat the epidemic. The group is participating in World Hepatitis Awareness Day by organizing people to call Congress on May 19th to demand action on HCV.
You are encouraged to be part of this movement! Be a part of this movement! To join Hepatitis C Advocates UNITED!, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org In the email, put your first name (and last name, if you are comfortable) and city/state. For more information about World Hepatitis Awareness Day, go to www.aminumber12.org.
Hepatitis C Advocates UNITED! is a national, grassroots network of individuals and organizations fighting for increased funding for hepatitis programs and legislation to mount a comprehensive federal effort to fight the disease. We design grassroots strategies to educate our elected representatives about the need for adequate HCV funding and policies, including action alerts, sign-on letters legislative meetings, media activities, and other campaigns. We also share information and strategies on state-level issues and campaigns. We communicate through a moderated listserv and monthly conference calls. Hepatitis C Advocates UNITED! was formed by the Hepatitis C Appropriations Partnership (HCAP) and the National Hepatitis C Advocacy Council (NHCAC).
This article was provided by Project Inform. Visit Project Inform's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.