2010 was a significant year in hepatitis C advocacy that saw increased attention to the impact of the epidemic in the United States and a more aggressive community response to the failure of government at all levels to provide adequate funding and attention.
In January 2010, the Institute of Medicine released a report highlighting the severity of the chronic hepatitis B and C epidemics and the inadequate response by the federal government. Nearly 5 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis B and/or C and the overwhelming majority is not aware of their status. An estimated 25-30% of people with HIV are co-infected with hepatitis C, and end stage liver disease is now a leading cause of death among people with HIV.
However, the response by elected officials continues to be abysmal. The federal government provides less than $20 million per year for viral hepatitis prevention services, and there is no effort to establish programs to provide access to care and treatment for uninsured people living with hepatitis C. Meanwhile, most states and localities lack resources or a plan to offer adequate screening, testing, care and prevention services.
Project Inform continued our leadership role in hepatitis C advocacy at the national and local levels in 2010 by working in coalition with partners to secure a comprehensive strategy to address the epidemic. At the national level, we advocated for increased federal funding through our participation in the Hepatitis C Appropriations Partnership, led by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors. This advocacy led to the first funding increase proposal from President Obama and a commitment from Leader Nancy Pelosi to prioritize additional funding for viral hepatitis programs. We also led the organizing of the first major hepatitis B and C rally a the United States Capitol. Held on May 19, 2010 (World Hepatitis Day), this rally brought hundreds of hepatitis advocates to the nation's capitol to demand leadership from Congress.
In San Francisco, we played a significant role in developing the San Francisco Mayor's Hepatitis C Task Force's report, "Recommendations for Strategically Addressing Hepatitis C in San Francisco." This document, released in January 2011, resulted from a year-long process by the Task Force researching and identifying gaps and needs in hepatitis C services and makes several key recommendations to ensure that San Francisco has a comprehensive plan to address the growing epidemic. Project Inform chairs the Task Force's Public Policy Committee and is organizing an advocacy campaign to make sure the recommendations are implemented.
2011 brings even more opportunities for hepatitis C advocates around the country. Project Inform, along with the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations and the Harm Reduction Coalition, has recently launched a national campaign called "Hepatitis Health Action: The Hepatitis Community Responds to Health Care Reform." This coalition will monitor implementation of health care reform legislation and advocate on behalf of people living with and at risk for hepatitis B and C throughout the process.
For information about our hepatitis C advocacy, contact Ryan Clary.