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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mayoral Candidates Release Statements on Ending Viral Hepatitis

The press event calling on mayoral candidates to submit their plans on eradicating viral hepatitis if elected has been successful in drawing the candidates' attention to this important citywide health issue. Below are the statements from several major mayoral candidates on how he or she would combat viral hepatitis as mayor.

Jeff Adachi

As Mayor of San Francisco, I will commit to ending hepatitis in San Francisco by advocating and securing resources locally, statewide and nationally in the following areas related to hepatitis: Care & Treatment, Prevention, Education, Awareness and Testing, Public Policy, and Research and Surveillance. I understand the tremendous impact hepatitis has on our communities and this awareness requires a commitment to action by City Hall.

The Hep B Free San Francisco collaboration model between city government, healthcare organizations, community groups, and businesses will be championed to ensure sustainability as well as growth. As a person of Asian descent, I feel personally responsible to increase awareness of these startling facts: chronic hepatitis B is responsible for 80% of all primary liver cancer worldwide, liver cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in Asian American men, and Asians and Pacific Islanders have the highest rate of liver cancer of any race/ethnic group.

I congratulate the collaboration on its success and acknowledge its continued commitment to this important health issue.

The tremendous work done by the Hep C Task Force in developing “Recommendations for strategically addressing Hepatitis C in San Francisco” must now be implemented. My administration will ensure that recommendations are prioritized in appropriate department’s budgets. A Hepatitis C community planning council will be supported by my administration to ensure continued focus on Hepatitis C issues.

As the San Francisco Public Defender for the last 9 years, I have demonstrated my belief in the courts and community that many issues including substance use must be de-criminalized. I support prevention activities and innovative treatment modalities based on best practices.

I look forward to the opportunity to work with the amazing individuals who have made the impossible thought of ending hepatitis in San Francisco into a reality.

David Chiu

I have been a strong advocate of our city’s response to hepatitis, and it will be a top public health priority as Mayor. As Board President, I assisted Ted Fang, Fiona Ma and other Asian community leaders with the Hep B Free campaign, to turn San Francisco into the country’s first hepatitis B free city. 1 in 10 Asians chronically infected with Hep B, and APIs have the highest rate of liver cancer, which is tragic since Hep B is preventable with a vaccine. We need to make sure everyone is monitored and treated, with free or low-cost hepatitis B testing and vaccinations, and continue to promote a public awareness campaign into every diverse community. With an estimated 12,000 San Franciscans infected with the hepatitis C virus, many unaware of their status, this is one of San Francisco’s most pressing health issues among many diverse communities - African Americans, Latinos, veterans, parolees, drug users, immigrants and low-income residents. I agree with many recommendations issued by the 2010 Hepatitis C Task Force: we need to increase our surveillance capacity, educate providers and the public, increase hepatitis testing, provide accurate risk information and hepatitis C prevention interventions, and improve health outcomes for those with the virus.

As Mayor, I would make sure DPH has resources to provide education and training to the public and providers. Compiling data is critical for diverse communities. In 2003, I led the online campaign to defeat Proposition 54, a measure that would have prohibited governments from collecting race-related health data. I would ensure we implement reporting requirements to track information by ethnic group. To provide critical hepatitis services, we must maintain funding for Medi-Cal and Healthy San Francisco. As Mayor, I will be the City’s chief advocate in Sacramento to preserve the programs San Franciscans count on.

Bevan Dufty

San Francisco has been a leader in the public and community response to HIV/AIDS. We must use that experience to mobilize public and community partnerships to end hepatitis B & C.

I thank Hep B Free for their consistent leadership. I commend the Hepatitis C Task Force for their excellent recommendations, and will honor the life and advocacy of Randy Allgaier by working hard to prevent the spread of this disease.

I am proud to have introduced legislation at the Board declaring May 19th, 2010 World Hepatitis Awareness Day. This annual event is a tremendous opportunity for our community to raise awareness about testing, prevention, and access to treatment.

As Mayor, I will work with the Department of Public Health to ensure they have the resources needed to tackle hepatitis B & C. Everyone in Healthy SF should be offered a hepatitis B vaccination and hepatitis C testing and treatment. We can do better at building awareness about hepatitis C, including the possibility of sexual transmission.

We must work to prevent injection drug use-related transmission. I've been a strong advocate for safe syringe access and substance abuse treatment. I support a community-led approach to safe injection sites. Like I did during the creation of the Castro Youth Housing Initiative, I will include neighbors early and encourage them to hear from people who are in recovery about the need for harm-reduction based models of care.

Hepatitis B & C must be addressed as part of a comprehensive health agenda, combining a vigorous prevention strategy and cutting-edge treatment. I have successfully championed funding for vital services for initiatives such as Magnet, API Wellness and the Crystal Meth Task Force. As Mayor you can count on my responsive and attentive leadership to work with each of you to eradicate hepatitis B & C.

Dennis Herrera

Like far too many San Franciscans, my familiarity with hepatitis is personal. It extends to friends and colleagues who struggle with infection (and co-infection with HIV/AIDS). My familiarity includes the deeply affecting loss of my political mentor and first campaign manager, Jim Rivaldo, who advocated publicly and powerfully for public health services for those who have the disease. Jim passed away from liver cancer in 2007.

As Mayor, there will be no higher priority for me than public health, including addressing our ongoing crisis with Hepatitis B and C. That commitment is reflected in my record as City Attorney. For the last decade, I’ve fought to expand access to quality, affordable healthcare in San Francisco, helping to draft Healthy San Francisco, and successfully defending it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. I sued an anti-competitive medical group for undermining Chinese Hospital, which has provided culturally competent care for more than a century.

Aa Mayor, I’ll strongly support San Francisco Hep B Free’s efforts to make San Francisco the first hepatitis B free city in the nation. I’ll do that by committing to provide free and low-cost hepatitis B testing and vaccinations to those at-risk, especially Asian and Pacific Islander adults. I’ll work to implement recommendations from the Hepatitis C Task Force’s December 2010 report: to educate San Franciscans about hepatitis C and their hepatitis C status; to afford those living with hepatitis C the highest possible level of care and support for their health and longevity; and to create a San Francisco in which there are no new hepatitis C transmissions. I’ll also designate a high-level staff position to serve as my liaison to communities impacted by hepatitis B and C.

My familiarity with hepatitis is personal. And as Mayor, I’m committed to addressing it personally, too.

Leland Yee

As Mayor, I will embrace the recommendations from the California Department of Public Health, the SF Hepatitis C Task Force and the Hep B Free campaign by prioritizing free or subsidized testing, proper diagnosis and treatment for people chronically infected with hepatitis.

We must emphasize primary prevention of hepatitis infections. We need to educate adults about the hepatitis B vaccine – especially in the API community and the LGBT community where rates of hepatitis B are too high. Vaccination and education are key to preventing the spread of hepatitis B in our city. This work is already being done by community groups, like Hep B Free and Project Inform. As Mayor, I will support that work and build on it.

Most new cases of hepatitis C are caused by syringe sharing. That's why I spent two years fighting to pass SB 41 allowing physicians and pharmacists to provide sterile syringes to adults without a prescription. With the California Medical Association, California Nurses Association, SF AIDS Foundation and Drug Policy Alliance on my side, we passed the single most important hepatitis and HIV prevention policy in the last 20 years. As Mayor, I'm also interested in exploring the use of safe injection sites. I think it’s an innovative approach and have met with the Alliance for Saving Lives to discuss safe injection sites. I am particularly impressed with Vancouver’s Insite. I plan to learn more about safe injection sites, including visiting Insite after the election.

As Mayor, I will continue to work with public health experts to build-up and build-out our harm reduction programs. I have led prevention efforts at the state level and will prioritize prevention at the local level. We can stop viral hepatitis – making our City and the families who live here healthier.

Ed Lee

Chronic hepatitis B and C have had a significant impact on San Francisco, and yet receive relatively little attention. I strongly support efforts to educate the public and providers about the disease and promote testing, vaccinations, and treatment.

Chronic hepatitis B is the leading cause of liver cancer. I have strongly supported The Hep B Free Program launched to eliminate hepatitis B infection. It has significantly increased hepatitis B awareness, testing, vaccination, and treatment among Asian Pacific Islanders (APIs). The program seeks to inform the API community, health care system, policy makers, businesses, and the general public about the disease. Media and grassroots messaging has raised awareness of hepatitis B and promoted testing API adults, vaccinating the estimated 40% not infected or immune, and treating the 10% who are infected. Hepatitis B strikes 1 in 10 APIs versus 1 in 1,000 of the general population. The results of the program have been very encouraging and the city will continue to make great progress with the continuation of this important program

More than 12,000 San Franciscans are known to be infected with hepatitis C. Many more are not aware of their status. Among the disproportionately affected are African-Americans, Latinos, veterans, injection drug users, men who have sex with man, immigrants, low-income people, and people with HIV. Hepatitis C can lead to liver disease, cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure and death.

The San Francisco Hepatitis C Task Force consists of a group of medical and social service providers, educators, advocates, and people living with hepatitis C. The Task Force has issued recommendation on combating the hepatitis C epidemic. I am in strong support of these recommendations. The city’s Public Health Department will look for new ways to treat hepatitis C including the recently approved drug Incivek that has had promising initial results.

Emil Lawrence

My mother died from a combination of Hepatitis B and C, so I have a concern about these diseases. She was not Asian, but French and Armenian. She lived in Shanghai, China during the 1930s. These diseases take years to develop, silently, but once manifested turn into full blown cancers. And one enters a state of hopelessness. In 1975 we did not kno what Hep B and C was. We do today. These are diseases that took thousands of years to spread and develop so eradicating them is not going to happen any time soon.

Although, today we have some vaccines, we also have many men and women that do not know that they contain a silent deadly force as they walk this earth. We have to test and inform them that they do. We have to test for this disease the way we tested for AIDS and other diseases. And we have an obligation to these people, so that they do not knowingly infect others.

John Avalos

In order to stop the spread of Hepatitis B, I believe San Francisco should implement vaccine requirements as well as prevention methods, education, and increased public awareness. States all across the country are establishing vaccine requirements for entry into daycare, elementary, and middle schools, and there is much we can do to follow in their footsteps. I will work to improve access to the Hepatitis B vaccine through such efforts as expanding days and hours of operation and promoting the availability of vaccine prevention information and educational materials. We need to expand city resources to ensure that the public understands the importance of regular testing and prevention methods, and to ensure that we have up-to-date screening procedures as well as the capacity to conduct screenings to ensure early diagnosis and treatment.

San Francisco needs a full Hepatitis C prevention program, one that is well funded and doesn’t need to go looking for funding every year, and one that focuses on public outreach and prevention. In following the 2011 recommendations of the San Francisco Hepatitis C Task Force, I support the creation of Safe Injection Facilities, and would be interested in developing a program in San Francisco. Service providers and advocates have recommended Safe Injection Facilities for years; these facilities, while controversial, have been proven to lower infection rates of HIV and Hepatitis, provide for proper disposal of needles, eliminate the need for emergency services and enforcement costs to the City, help to temper addiction, and save lives. As a harm reduction city, San Francisco would benefit from developing such facilities here.

Joanna Rees

The fight against Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C will be top priorities for my Mayoral Administration. Through the Hepatitis C Task Force and Hep B Free Campaign, San Francisco has made important strides in the areas of awareness, prevention, detection and treatment of both HBV and HCV. Moving forward, we aggressively implement policy recommendations from these working groups and assign a City-Wide Hepatitis Elimination Coordinator to ensure health providers, government agencies, neighborhood leaders and human service groups are receiving the information and resources needed to combat these silent killers, and employing best practices in terms of identifying and reaching our most at-risk populations.

Because most infected with HBV are unaware or do not exhibit symptoms, we must ensure that clinicians are screening for HBV—especially in the API community. As Mayor, I would strongly support the development of a clinicians “Honor Roll,” to promote and publicly recognize those who commit to screen all API patients for HBV. The Mayor is also uniquely positioned to bring together community stakeholders—including clinicians, community and business leaders---to support a sustained public awareness campaign, and to help provide additional resources to clinics and health facilities willing to provide low-cost screenings to the public, and ongoing treatment to chronically affected individuals.

On Hepatitis C, our strategy must be focused on greater awareness, increased prevention and better access to care. I strongly support full implementation of the Hepatitis C Task Force’s 2010 recommendations. These include not just better surveillance of at risk populations (especially those currently inside the criminal justice system), but a coordinated awareness campaign targeting clinicians and the public, greater screening capacity, a prevention campaign to include needle distribution and safety enforcement at tattoo parlors and nail salons, and policy changes for greater access to affordable HCV screening and treatment at health clinics.

Phil Ting

I am a proud San Franciscan, and it is of the utmost importance to me that we take preventive measures to address viral health issues in the city, especially Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.

We should expand and encourage more testing for HBV and HCV, while also making tests more accessible to residents. HBV is known as the “silent killer” because many don’t exhibit symptoms and don’t realize they’re infected.

If anything, we need to ensure that individuals receive adequate treatment and understand the risk they pose to society if they are actually infected. The great work of active community members, like SF Hep B Free and the Hepatitis C Task Force, goes a long way to map steps we can take in order to protect our city and neighbors. Sometimes it takes a compassionate community to really increase adequate awareness. That’s what my campaign to Reset San Francisco is all about – empowering the community to get engaged and to get involved in making San Francisco even better.

If elected Mayor, I would work with the San Francisco Department of Public Health to ensure we’re working to implement public education programs for prevention and treatment. In conjunction with these education programs, the City also needs to improve its methods for gathering data – so we can track the outbreak and target the neediest neighborhoods with high rates of infection. My campaign to Reset San Francisco focuses on the necessity for data-driven decision-making, so our city government can be more effective and more responsive.

Michela Alioto-Pier

Since the early days of the HIV/AIDS crisis, San Francisco has been a world leader in prevention and treatment campaigns for communicable diseases. Our city’s efforts have saved the lives of countless San Franciscans, and our example has helped other communities save lives around the world. We know we can have an impact. We need to apply our experience and our resources to dealing with Hepatitis.

The first step toward making our city Hepatitis B free is education. We need to continue the coordinated effort of the Health Department, private health providers, and anyone who serves the most at-risk population to ensure that people know what the disease is, how to recognize symptoms and how the disease is spread. We have to encourage people to get tested and get vaccinated. Those who have the disease must have access to treatment and help taking the steps necessary to avoid spreading the infection. HepBFree is a great start, and as Mayor I’ll make sure it is fully resourced.

The plan to address Hepatitis C has to move along much the same lines, with an even more aggressive push for testing because there is no vaccine. The California Department of Public Health Center for Infectious Diseases has developed a comprehensive strategy, and the City should press hard for implementation statewide. We should be coordinating with other public health agencies to create accurate profiles of those most at risk, and targeting information campaigns at those communities. The next Mayor should push hard in Sacramento for help ensuring universal access to testing, and funding for Hepatitis research.

San Francisco is fortunate to be home to a large, sophisticated medical community. We can and we must take a leadership role in stopping the spread of all forms of Hepatitis.

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