Cross-posted from nvhr.org
NVHR joined our partners at NASTAD, Hepatitis B Foundation, and Hep B United to host a virtual Viral Hepatitis Policy Summit and Hill Day on February 17 & 18. The virtual event was an opportunity for advocates and federal partners to share information and engage in discussion about strategies and priorities at the federal level to eliminate viral hepatitis.

Over 100 advocates from around the country participated in the Viral Hepatitis Policy Summit, making it the largest one ever. The advocates heard from and engaged with CDC & HHS officials on a range of topics, including viral hepatitis elimination planning, health equity, strategies to expand hepatitis B & C testing and hepatitis A & B vaccination, the impact of COVID-19, scaling up comprehensive harm reduction and syringe services programs (SSPs) for people who inject drugs, and the importance of robust funding.

Several advocacy priorities surfaced during the summit. Advocates highlighted the importance of moving towards universal hepatitis B testing and vaccination; addressing Medicaid barriers and restrictions to treatment and access to care; advancing innovative viral hepatitis testing technologies; addressing stigma and discrimination; supporting people who use drugs; and maintaining a strong health equity lens in our goals and messaging.


Vu Q&A: Kate Moraras on the Need for Universal Hepatitis B Screenings

Cross-posted from HepVu.org
Kate Moraras is the Deputy Director of Public Health at the Hepatitis B Foundation and the Director of Hep B United.

Q: You currently work as Deputy Director of Public Health at the Hepatitis B Foundation and as the director of Hep B United. How did you first become involved in Hepatitis B and how has the field changed in recent years?

When I first started working in the Hepatitis B field, I was on a fellowship at the Office of Minority Health with the Department of Health and Human Services. I was already familiar with Hepatitis B and understood that it was the single greatest health disparity for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at the time. I became more engaged with this issue over time and eventually made my way to the Hepatitis B Foundation. Coincidentally, when I started with the foundation, I learned that I had an uncle who is living with Hepatitis B. Ever since, my professional dedication to Hepatitis B knowledge and engagement became more personal.

In recent years, conversations about Hepatitis B have evolved. Originally, Hepatitis B was generally known as an Asian American health issue since more than half of chronic Hepatitis B cases in the U.S. are amongst Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (who only make up about 6% of the U.S. population). However, in the past 6 years or so, Hepatitis B infections have steadily climbed amongst rural communities and younger populations – primarily due to injection drug use tied to the opioid epidemic. All this considered, I believe that Hepatitis B needs to be seen in the context of racial discrimination to align with the social justice conversations we’re having today. We have started to highlight these realities and are seeing prioritization of messages that encourage testing to address the gaps in adult hepatitis B vaccination rates.

Q: On May 5, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released a draft recommendation statement, which recommends Hepatitis B screenings for adolescents and adults at increased risk for infection. In response to this draft rule, Hep B United and the Hepatitis B Foundation sent a letter urging the USPSTF to expand its recommendation to endorse universal Hepatitis B screenings for all adults. Why do you think that the current USPSTF risk-based Hepatitis B screening recommendation falls short?

These new screening guidelines are not effective. The Hepatitis B community is disappointed to see that the task force put out a recommendation that was quite similar to what has been in place since 2014, and did not encourage universal screening of all adults for Hepatitis B. Six years have passed, but we are not seeing the necessary changes being made. The USPSTF statement also mirrors what the CDC has been recommending for ten years: people who are high-risk should get screened. We have evidence that this is not enough. Estimates show that up to 75% of Hepatitis B-infected individuals remain undiagnosed. I think it’s time that we look at a universal screening recommendation because there are clearly gaps in risk-based screening.

Continue reading Vu Q&A: Kate Moraras on the Need for Universal Hepatitis B Screenings