New York City Viral Hepatitis Community Educates Legislators About A Silent Killer

October 19, 2010


City Council Members Arroyo, Chin and Koo Host Awareness Breakfast for Over 100 Concerned Lawmakers and Residents

NEW YORK, NY--October 19, 2010--Patient advocates, health providers and community groups met with city, State and Federal lawmakers today to sound off about the problem of viral hepatitis in New York City.

Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo, who represents district 17 in The Bronx; Margaret Chin, who represents district 1 which includes Manhattan Chinatown; and Peter Koo, who represents district 20 in Flushing, addressed attendees and spoke about the devastating impact of viral hepatitis, a “silent killer” that can go undetected for decades while slowly damaging the liver, leading to liver cancer and death.

“New York City residents value their health and the health of their families, and in that spirit are proud to support an event that raises the awareness of public health issues such as viral hepatitis,” said Arroyo, who also serves as the chair of the Health Committee on the Council.

“Hepatitis B and C impact all ages, races, and ethnic groups but they disproportionately affect immigrants, minorities and socially marginalized populations,” said Koo. “In my district with a large East Asian immigrant community, information and services must be culturally appropriate and affordable.”

The program also included brief testimonies by patient advocates and health care providers speaking about their struggles with not only the disease but also with a public health system that has extremely limited resources for viral hepatitis, which affects more than twice as many New Yorkers as HIV does.

Xu Li, a young woman from Fujian Province in China, said that hepatitis B is highly stigmatized in her home country and in Manhattan’s Chinatown where she now lives. Speaking in Mandarin through a translator, she said that she was originally unable to attend the event because she could not afford to take time off from work.

“No one wants to talk openly about this disease,” she said. “Many people are undocumented, so they’re afraid to go to a hospital when they find out they have hepatitis B. They’re afraid they’ll lose their job. They don’t know who to talk to, or who can help them.”

Through programs such as NYU’s Asian American Hepatitis B Program (AAHBP), Li discovered her status early and was able to find affordable treatment to manage the disease.

However, there are many others who are not so fortunate. Funding for services such as the Asian American Hepatitis B Program, which screened over 9,000 individuals and linked 1,500 people to care, has been eliminated in recent years. Legislators are only beginning to become aware of the serious public health threat posed by viral hepatitis, and resources are still not being dedicated to address the problem.

“Though we have made a lot of progress recently in putting viral hepatitis on the map, there are still a lot of opportunities for better education and awareness -- of lawmakers, of health providers and of course, in the affected communities,” said Dr. Henry Pollack, Scientific Principal Investigator for NYU B Free CEED, a CDC-funded Center for the Elimination of Hepatitis B Disparities. “We hope that this event is a first step in opening up the dialog about this terrible disease and ensuring that it gets the attention and resources it deserves.”

“This is a very important issue to people in my district, which includes Chinatown,” said Chin. “We really need more legislators to know this is happening in their own community, and that their constituents are concerned.”

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About the NYC Hepatitis B Coalition and NYC Hepatitis C Task Forces
The NYC Hepatitis B Coalition and NYC Hepatitis C Task Forces are comprised of health service providers and advocates from over 200 organizations throughout the five boroughs of NYC. Our mission is to raise awareness, increase knowledge, identify and share existing resources, and facilitate opportunities for coordinated efforts to improve viral hepatitis awareness, prevention and management throughout NYC.

Justina Wu
(212) 263-8198


press release_legis breakfast.pdf - (press release_legis breakfast.pdf)