The need for federal attention and serious investments to combat hepatitis B in the U.S. is greater than ever. Despite a safe and highly effective vaccine, as many as 2.2 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis B and up to 1,200 babies in the U.S. are born each year with hepatitis B infection. Acute hepatitis B infections are also rising in parts of country, as a result of the ongoing opioid crisis. Only 30-35% of infected Americans diagnosed, and less than 10% of Americans living with hepatitis B are being treated for the disease. Asian American, Pacific Islander, and African communities are disproportionately impacted by hepatitis B and often face additional barriers to health care access.
Hep B United leads national and grassroots advocacy efforts to raise the profile of hepatitis B and liver cancer as urgent public health priorities and to amplify the voices of people and communities most impacted. Our advocacy goals include securing increased federal funding for hepatitis B and liver cancer research and prevention programs, ensuring access to health care and affordable medications, and fighting hepatitis B-related stigma and institutional discrimination.
- H.R. 3016 / S. 3074, LIVER Act of 2019
- H.Res. 331 / S. Res. 177, Resolutions supporting the designation of April 30 as "National Adult Hepatitis B Vaccination Awareness Day"
- H.R. 6637, Health Equity and Accountability Act (HEAA) of 2020
Increasing funding for hepatitis B surveillance and prevention programs
The tools to eliminate viral hepatitis in the U.S. exist, but achieving this will require a significant investment. Providing state and local health departments and other key stakeholders with adequate funding to provide viral hepatitis services is integral to stopping the spread of both hepatitis B and C and successfully ending the epidemic of viral hepatitis.
Increasing funding for hepatitis B and liver cancer research to find a cure
Although hepatitis B is preventable and treatable, there is still no cure for the disease. Only seven medications are approved to manage chronic hepatitis B infection, none are curative, most require lifelong use, and often only reduce the likelihood of death due to liver disease by 40-60%. In recent years, a cure was discovered for hepatitis C. With increased prioritization and federal funding for hepatitis B research, a cure can be developed for hepatitis B as well.
Improving adult hepatitis B vaccination coverage
While hepatitis B vaccine coverage in infants has increased to 84% worldwide, the HBV vaccination rate for adults over 18 years old in the U.S. is only around 25%. Rates are estimated to be even lower among injection drug users, who are at high risk of contracting HBV. Low rates of HBV vaccine coverage represent a missed opportunity in preventing hepatitis B infection. It is particularly important to increase HBV vaccination coverage among young adults born prior to 1991, when the HBV vaccine became recommended for all infants at birth.
Improving access to treatment for people living with hepatitis B
For many people with chronic hepatitis B, the cost of antiviral medications is a major barrier to treatment, even for those who have prescription drug coverage. Many plans place hepatitis B medications in a category that dramatically increases the co-pays for those drugs. Although lawmakers have banned insurance companies from discriminating against pre-existing conditions, these prescription pricing practices have effectively made many insurance plans unaffordable for people with hepatitis B.
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