On World Hepatitis Day 2010, NVHR Capitol Hill Rally Attracts Hundreds of Americans & Five Members of Congress To Support Increased Federal Funding for Viral Hepatitis
WASHINGTON, May 19 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Surrounded by a diverse group of 500 Americans from the viral hepatitis B and C communities united in common purpose on World Hepatitis Day 2010, the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable (NVHR) today hosted a Capitol Hill rally urging swift action to fix the federal funding crisis for 5 million Americans afflicted with chronic viral hepatitis. With the support of a boisterous crowd, NVHR was joined by five Members of Congress, Congressmen Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Charles Dent (R-Pa.), Anh "Joseph" Cao (R-La.), and Mike Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), whom all pledged to make the promise of increased federal funding a reality this year and to address the viral hepatitis funding problem once and for all.
"NVHR has a simple and direct message for Washington: we are not going away and we will no longer be ignored. Until Congress and the Administration act once and for all to fix the funding crisis, we will be unrelenting in demanding adequate federal funding for viral hepatitis screening, education, and intervention programs for 5 million Americans," vowed Ms. Lorren Sandt, NVHR Chair and Executive Director of Caring Ambassadors Program, based in Portland, OR. "In the absence of federal leadership, the annual costs of viral hepatitis to Medicare and Medicaid could reach $85 billion in the coming decade. Swift federal action now will help millions of Americans and help mitigate an otherwise inevitable fiscal disaster. The time for action is now. Our community and our nation cannot afford any more delays."
Today's rally featured 500 Americans from all walks of life united in their cause to urge Washington to act. Representing 11 states and the District of Columbia, the rally featured speakers representing NVHR, the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, the District of Columbia Department of Health, Veterans Aimed towards Awareness, the Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations, Community AIDS National Network, Hepatitis B Foundation, Greater Washington Viral Hepatitis Support Group, Harm Reduction Coalition, North General Hospital, Hepatitis Education Program, Chinese American Medical Society, Hepatitis B Initiative-DC, National AIDS Treatment Advocacy Project, Hepatitis C Support Project, Hepatitis C Association, and many others. The rally also featured a Silent Vigil in tribute to those individuals lost to hepatitis B or C.
Approximately 1 in 50 Americans are afflicted with chronic viral hepatitis B or C – with most unaware they are infected, especially African Americans and Asian Americans. Without detection and treatment, chronic viral hepatitis leads to liver cancer, cirrhosis, or liver failure. In the absence of federal leadership, the research firm Milliman estimates that public and private payers' cost of treating chronic viral hepatitis C alone will more than triple by 2024 to $85 billion annually. Medicare and Medicaid would absorb a disproportionate share of these added costs.
Earlier this year, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a landmark report blasting the federal government for its inadequate response to this crisis. Since the January 2010 release of the IOM report, the Administration has done little to help assuage the viral hepatitis community. The Administration's budget proposal for 2011 would fund the Division of Viral Hepatitis at a level actually lower than allocated a decade ago during the Clinton Administration.
Bipartisan legislation, HR 3974, "The Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act," sponsored by Representatives Mike Honda (D-Calif.), Charles Dent (R-Pa.) and 36 other House Members would correct this shortfall. The Honda-Dent legislation would increase the ability of the CDC to support state health departments in their prevention, immunization and surveillance, and referral to care efforts. Much of the Honda-Dent legislation tracks with the IoM's recommendations.
NVHR is a coalition of more than 150 public, private, and voluntary organizations dedicated to reducing the incidence of infection, morbidity, and mortality from chronic viral hepatitis that afflicts more than 5 million Americans. www.nvhr.org
SOURCE National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable