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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Top 10 Hepatitis B News Items for 2010

Published in hbvadvocate.org
December 30, 2010
By Christine M. Kukka

A potential new, powerful treatment for hepatitis B, treating pregnant women to prevent infection of newborns, increased political and medical awareness of hepatitis B, and health care reform provisions have all had an impact on the hepatitis B community during 2010.

Three years ago, there were far fewer articles, studies and reports about monitoring, treating and preventing hepatitis B. This year, numerous studies and clinical trials have tracked the effectiveness of antivirals and interferon, and researchers have come up with new methods to monitor liver health, and screen those at risk of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection.

Here are some of the major discoveries, reports, and public health initiatives that have had an impact on hepatitis B worldwide in 2010:

A National Model Emerges to Screen and Treat Asian-Americans for Hepatitis B: In 2007, community organizers in San Francisco began organizing the Hep B Free Campaign to increase screening, treatment, and immunization for hepatitis B. The initiative, which started with minimal funding, now involves more than 50 public and private health care organizations, businesses, and educational institutions, as well as Major League Baseball's San Francisco Giants, and has become a national model for increasing access to health care for those at risk of HBV.

The campaign, focusing on a city that has the highest rate of liver cancer in the country, has created seven low-cost public access hepatitis B screening and vaccination sites through collaboration with community partners, public and private hospitals, doctors, insurance and pharmaceutical companies, and non-profit organizations.

San Francisco, with its high percentage of Asian-American residents, has the highest rate of liver cancer in the nation and is the gateway for immigrants from Asian countries where there is a high prevalence of hepatitis B. The model is now being copied in San Mateo, San Jose, Orange County and Los Angeles, and federal and state health officials are touting its success and suggesting it be used in other cities with at-risk populations across the country.

Activists Utilize Provocative Social Marketing to Fight Hepatitis B: For years, critics have faulted hepatitis B activists for their low-profile, under-the-radar efforts to raise awareness of hepatitis B among those at risk for the infection, particularly Asian-Americans. Unlike AIDS activists, who publicly acknowledged their infections and staged public protests to raise awareness and push for fast-track development of AIDS drugs, hepatitis B organizers have been quiet, in part because many Asian-Americans found the culture of public protest and discussion of illness and death distasteful.

As part of San Francisco’s Hep B Free campaign, the Asian-American advertising agency DAE produced a provocative ad campaign entitled “Which One Deserves to Die” to alert the public that 1 in 10 Asian-Americans is chronically infected with HBV.

The posters appeared in local ethnic and mainstream newspapers, billboards, and bus transit boards in May 2010 in honor of the 15th anniversary of National Hepatitis Awareness Month and Asian Pacific Heritage Month. They showed groups of Asian-American beauty contestants, a sports team, and a family of 10 with the caption, “Which one deserves to die?”

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