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NVHR Applauds Congressional Action to End Federal Ban on Funding Syringe Exchange

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 Medical PDA News J E 4
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Legislation Critical to Stemming Tide of Tens of Thousands of New Chronic Hepatitis Infections Annually

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Legislation approved by Congress providing for federal funding of syringe exchange will be crucial in helping to reduce tens of thousands of new viral hepatitis infections occurring each year in the United States, the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) said today. The provision was included in the FY 2010 Consolidated Appropriations bill approved by the House and Senate this weekend. President Obama is expected to sign the measure shortly.

The NVHR is a coalition of more than 150 public, private, and voluntary organizations dedicated to reducing the incidence of infection, morbidity, and mortality from viral hepatitis in the US through strategic planning, leadership, coordination, advocacy, and research. www.nvhr.org

"NVHR is pleased that Congress has acted on this sensible legislation that will reduce new viral hepatitis infections and ultimately save lives," said NVHR Chair Lorren Sandt. "Syringe exchange is a crucial tool in a comprehensive arsenal of counseling and medical referral programs designed to reduce drug use and infection. NVHR wishes to thank Representative Jose Serrano, Chairman David Obey, and thousands of activists for their tireless efforts in helping to address this critical public health issue."

An estimated 5.4 million Americans are infected with chronic viral hepatitis B and C and the majority are unaware they are infected. Injection drug use with shared syringes or equipment is the leading cause of hepatitis C, and 70 percent of people who inject drugs are infected. If left untreated, hepatitis B and C can cause serious liver disease, including cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure. Needle exchange programs are an essential strategy to prevent the spread of hepatitis B and C infection, and provide vital counseling, testing, education, hepatitis A and B vaccine, and referral to medical care. According to the respected research firm Milliman, the cost of chronic hepatitis C virus infection alone could reach $85 billion annually by 2024, with Medicare and Medicaid absorbing a disproportionate share of those costs.

In early January 2010, the Institute of Medicine (IoM) is expected to release a report on viral hepatitis in the United States that outlines strategies for reducing the incidence of viral hepatitis infection and addressing medical complications in those individuals with chronic infections.

SOURCE National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable
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