Elimination is Possible So Let’s Make Hepatitis a Priority

By Alyssa Kitlas May 1, 2017

Today marks the start of Hepatitis Awareness Month, an opportunity to call attention to the urgent need to address hepatitis in the United States. Every May we are reminded that millions of Americans live with chronic viral hepatitis and as many as three quarters are unaware of their status and are not connected with care and treatment. 

This Hepatitis Awareness Month is particularly important because we are at a critical turning point in our efforts to address hepatitis B and C. We have the tools to eliminate them both but as the recently released National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s National Strategy for the Elimination of Hepatitis B and C: Phase 2 report highlighted, hepatitis is not the priority it should be in the United States. We must change this. Elimination is possible but it will take considerable political will and additional resources to get there. Hepatitis Awareness Month is a perfect opportunity to start talking about elimination and highlight the need to truly make hepatitis a priority. 

Health departments are critical partners in efforts to eliminate hepatitis. Some health departments have created state or local elimination plans and many others are starting to think about how they can update their strategic plans to include elimination goals. Some are even leveraging their ending the HIV epidemic initiatives, such as Getting to Zero SF and Ending the AIDS Epidemic in New York State as frameworks for hepatitis elimination. 

In 2016, the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) helped form End Hep C SF, a collective impact initiative to eliminate hepatitis C in SF centered around five key priority areas outlined in their 2017-2019 strategic plan. You can read more about this example and learn how the Oklahoma Department of Public Health is supporting the Cherokee Elimination Strategy through an awareness campaign in May’s Ready to End the HIV and Viral Hepatitis Epidemics Chair’s Challenge.

There is a lot of momentum this Hepatitis Awareness Month to start the conversation about elimination. If your jurisdiction is looking to create an elimination plan, you don’t have to start from scratch. There are many resources available that can be leveraged such as the National Viral Hepatitis Action Plan (2017-2020). The Action Plan has a number of key indicators around the overarching goals that can be adapted to fit the needs of your jurisdiction’s epidemic. NASTAD is also working to support health departments as they embark on the road towards elimination. If you need technical assistance or would like to be connected to a jurisdiction who has had success in this area, please contact Chris Taylor, Senior Director, Hepatitis.

We are interested in your Hepatitis Awareness Month activities! Please tweet @NASTAD using the hashtag #HepAware to tell us what you and your community partners are doing. NASTAD is also co-hosting a #HepChat with NVHR, Hep B United, and CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis at 2:00 PM ET on Thursday, June 8. Please join us for this Twitter chat to celebrate your success during Hepatitis Awareness Month. And to learn more about what you can do to raise awareness throughout May, check out this Hepatitis Awareness Month webinar that NASTAD hosted with Hep B United highlighting available resources and examples of activities and events from New Jersey and Philadelphia.

This Hepatitis Awareness Month, let’s start thinking about how we can #EliminateHepatitis