Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Hep C sign-on letter

The Hepatitis C Appropriations Partnership and the National Hepatitis C Advocacy Council is requesting that organizations serving people with or at risk for viral hepatitis sign on to the following letter by March 15. Consent to sign-on should be sent (with organization name and address) to lorren AT hepcchallenge.org.


President George W. Bush
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

RE: National Hepatitis Awareness Month 2006

Dear Mr. President,

We write to you today requesting a Presidential Proclamation demonstrating your administration’s support of May 2006 as National Hepatitis Awareness Month. Our country is in the throes of a largely unrecognized epidemic with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). At least 5 million Americans have already been infected, with 75% to 85% becoming chronically infected. The number of Americans with hepatitis C now outnumbers those living with HIV/AIDS by 5-to-1.

Chronic hepatitis C is the leading indication for adult liver transplantation in the U.S., and the demand for liver transplants for this indication has increased by a least 12-fold since 1990. Similarly, chronic liver disease (the vast majority of which is caused by chronic infection with hepatitis C and/or hepatitis B) is now among the top ten causes of death for Americans age 25 years and older and is a leading cause of death for those infected with HIV.

In 2004, the Eleventh Report on Carcinogens issued by the National Institutes of Health added the hepatitis C and hepatitis B viruses to the list of known human carcinogens; these viruses increase the risk of liver cancer by more than 10-fold. The incidence of liver cancer among Americans more than doubled between 1975 and 1998. The number of new cases of liver cancer and the associated number of liver cancer deaths are expected to double again in the U.S. over the next 10 to 20 years.

The social and fiscal costs associated with chronic viral hepatitis are increasing exponentially. An actuarial study conducted in 2002 estimated total medical expenditures for people with HCV at $15 billion per year. Without immediate intervention, the hepatitis C epidemic in the U.S. is expected to result in 3.1 million years of life lost by 2019. The projected direct and indirect costs of the current HCV epidemic, if left unchecked, will be over $85 billion for the years 2010 through 2019.

Despite the staggering magnitude of the social, medical, and fiscal repercussions of chronic viral hepatitis on our citizens, many Americans are unaware of the personal and public health threats posed by chronic viral hepatitis. Unlike most viral illnesses, effective medical treatments are available to limit the long-term, devastating consequences of chronic viral hepatitis for many patients. But early diagnosis and medical management hinge upon increased public awareness.

At least 18 states have already issued or are working on proclamations recognizing May 2006 as Hepatitis Awareness Month. We respectfully request and urge you to help us educate the American public and thereby begin the process of turning the tide on chronic viral hepatitis in our country by issuing a Presidential Proclamation recognizing May 2006 as National Hepatitis Awareness Month.


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