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Home > The Hidden Truth of Hepatitis

The Hidden Truth of Hepatitis

As we approach National Hepatitis Awareness Month this May, the American Liver Foundation is on a mission to open people’s eyes and minds. The general public often stigmatizes hepatitis infection as resulting from a person’s life choices. This stigma and fear of discrimination it produces prevents people from taking action. Stigma alone can silence people from discussing their concerns with their doctors and loved ones, dissuade people from getting tested and impose a barrier to medical treatment options.

In reality the hepatitis virus strikes without regard to race, gender, age, education level, or socio-economic status and impacts a wider range of the population than is commonly known: consider a nurse who is accidentally stuck by a needle; the teenager who requires an emergency blood transfusion after a near fatal car accident; and the mother who unknowingly passes hepatitis B to her unborn child; they are all living in a world where programming, support and educational efforts are needed to affect the quality of their lives. The American Liver Foundation can help all people struggling and living with hepatitis each day.

The American Liver Foundation’s Youth Education Program targets children and teenagers teaching them the importance of liver wellness and making them aware of the ways in which they can prevent hepatitis infection; washing their hands before eating/handling food and after using the restroom, not sharing toothbrushes or razors, and making certain that all piercing or tattooing meets the strictest sterilization requirements.

The liver wellness programs of the American Liver Foundation offer literature for adults highlighting the importance of hepatitis testing for at risk individuals. Because an infected person can be asymptomatic for an extended period of time, many people may transmit the hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses unknowingly. Similarly, a lack of knowledge of their status means that many people do not seek treatment in a timely fashion and do not manage their lives in a way that minimizes the effects of the disease.

Our Treatment Choices Initiative Program educates participants about the liver, liver disease, specifically hepatitis C treatment options, and other disease management strategies. The program also invites dialogue around hepatitis C and provides information on local resources.

An estimated 5.4 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C (HCV) and hepatitis B (HBV) infection. Chronic viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer which now ranks as one of the top ten killers of Americans over the age of 25. Each year, 19,000 people die of HCV related liver disease and 4,000 die from HBV related liver disease. Without increased awareness of the need for testing, counseling and prevention initiatives, HCV related deaths and long term complications are projected to increase dramatically by 2020: liver failure by 106 percent, liver cancer by 81 percent and over all deaths related to liver disease by 180 percent.

The American Liver Foundation has granted more than $21 million to more than 650 researchers conducting priority liver disease research. In 2008, ALF granted 13 awards totaling over $1 million in research priority funding. Our commitment to advancing treatments and eventually finding a cure for liver disease and hepatitis will continue with this year’s 2009 awards that will be announced this spring.

Across the country, 16 Divisions of the American Liver Foundation will be conducting mass marketed events to raise funds and awareness and share vital disease related information. Please visit our website HYPERLINK "http://www.liverfoundation.org" www.liverfoundation.org to find out more about scheduled ALF events taking place in your city and how you can become involved.

I would like to thank donors and stakeholders that continue to support our organization. Your support allows us to continue to allocate the resources necessary to fund priority research programs, educate the general public, provide resources to individuals with liver disease and advocate on behalf of the 30 million people in the United States who have liver disease.

Sincerely,


Rick Smith
President and Chief Executive Officer
American Liver Foundation


This article appeared in the April 2009 issue of Liver Health Today magazine.

The mission of the American Liver Foundation (ALF) is to facilitate, advocate and promote education, support and research for the prevention, treatment and cure of liver disease.

Page updated: August 30th, 2010