Supervisor Gordon Mar and Bay Area Community Non-Profits Announce National Hepatitis Awareness Month in San Francisco
San Francisco, CA—Leaders from North East Medical Services (NEMS) and SF Hep B Free Bay Area joined Supervisor Gordon Mar (市參事馬兆明) in declaring May 2022 as National Hepatitis Awareness Month at a press conference at the NEMS Noriega clinic. Supervisor Mar introduced a resolution announcing National Hepatitis Awareness Month in San Francisco, which will go up for a vote before the Board of Supervisors today.
“We will use this month to build awareness and educate the community about the chronic hepatitis afflicting San Franciscans and the Asian community,” said Supervisor Mar. “The disproportionate impact of hepatitis B on the Asian community is alarming, and we must use this month to level current health inequities and embark on ambitious public health outreach.”
California is the first state in the country to provide voluntary screenings to adults for hepatitis B and C with the passage of AB 789 (Low, 2021). Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are both potentially life-threatening liver infections, which can cause both acute and chronic disease. Hepatitis B disproportionately impacts Asians, Pacific Islanders and African Americans. In California, an estimated 88% of adults living with chronic hepatitis B are Asians or Pacific Islanders (API), and Asians are eight times more likely to die from hepatitis B than non-Latino whites. African Americans have the second-highest prevalence of chronic hepatitis B infection and are 2.6 times more likely to die than non-Latino whites. Hepatitis C also disproportionately impacts African Americans, who are 2.9 times more likely to test positive than other racial groups. Fewer than a third of people who have hepatitis B are aware of their condition and only 40-50% of hepatitis C patients have knowledge of their infection.
SF Hep B Free Bay Area is a multicounty campaign that was launched to combat hepatitis B among Asians and Pacific Islanders. The campaign tackles these challenges by targeting the API communities in the San Francisco Bay Area with free education and screening at cultural and religious events, partner with local elected officials, health care systems, businesses, community nonprofit and service groups, work with popular ethnic media outlets and remind community physicians about the importance of screening for hepatitis B. “We have the tools to beat hepatitis B and C today. We just have to continue building awareness and empowering people to take action,” stated Richard So (蘇子文), Executive Director (執行總監) of SF Hep B Free Bay Area.
“With the signing of AB 789 into law this year, California became the first state in the country to provide adults voluntary screenings for hepatitis B and C in an effort to save countless lives and close disparities in diagnosis and treatment,” said Dr. Samuel So (蘇啟深醫生), Executive Director of the Asian Liver Center at Stanford Medicine (斯坦福大學醫學院外科教授, 亞裔肝臟中心的執行總監). “This has made a significant impact to the timing and our work towards eliminating hep B and hep C in California, and in San Francisco. With the support of this resolution and Supervisor Mar’s continued leadership, we look forward to San Francisco being the first city to achieve the elimination of hep B and hep C.”
In addition to community education and outreach, NEMS provides clinical screening, treatment, and vaccinations for hepatitis B as well as screening and treatment for hepatitis C. NEMS has implemented universal screening and treatment for hepatitis B and hepatitis C for all adults and has launched a comprehensive hepatitis B program for pregnant women and their children. NEMS is also moving towards more comprehensive in-house treatment for hepatitis B and hepatitis C, which will provide improved continuity of care.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended universal hepatitis B vaccination among all adults ages 19 to 59 and adults ages 60 and older with risk factors for hepatitis B or without identified risk factors but seeking protection. In California, hepatitis B and C screenings and antiviral treatment for hepatitis B and C are covered by Medi-Cal, Medicare, and by ACA-compliant health plans. Hepatitis A and B vaccines are covered by Medi-Cal and most private health plans. Additionally, Medicare Part B covers hepatitis B vaccines for those at increased risk of hepatitis.
“Hepatitis B is one of the largest health disparities in San Francisco, with an estimated 1 in 12 Asians chronically infected and at risk for liver cancer and cirrhosis,” stated Dr. Amy Tang (沈愛梅醫生), Director of Immigrant Health of North East Medical Services (移民健康總監, 東北醫療中心). “AB 789 (2021) will help us address this health disparity by ensuring that primary care providers offer hepatitis B and C screening to all adults so they can be linked to care and empowered with the knowledge of their status. Hepatitis B is preventable, with the CDC now recommending the vaccine for all adults under 60 years old, and hepatitis C is curable. With these tools, we can eliminate hepatitis B and C for future generations.”
About Supervisor Mar
Supervisor Gordon Mar represents District 4 on the Board of Supervisors, including the Central Sunset, Outer Sunset, Parkside, Outer Parkside, and Pine Lake Park neighborhoods. He has previously served as the Executive Director of the Chinese Progressive Association and Jobs with Justice San Francisco. He came to San Francisco in 1988 after receiving a degree in Environmental Resource Studies from U.C. Berkeley and has lived in the Sunset since 2005 with his wife, Cecilia, and daughter, Lian.
North East Medical Services (NEMS) is one of the largest non-profit community health centers in the United States targeting the medically underserved population of the San Francisco Bay Area. NEMS offers comprehensive health care services to a variety of patients, a majority of whom are low-income, access Medicaid, and are limited English proficient. NEMS providers and staff offer linguistically-competent and culturally-sensitive services in many languages and dialects other than English, including Cantonese, Mandarin, Toishan, Vietnamese, Burmese, Tagalog, Spanish, and Hindi. NEMS operates 17 clinics and service delivery sites in San Francisco, Daly City, and San Jose. For more information, please visit www.nems.org.
About SF Hep B Free Bay Area
San Francisco Hep B Free – Bay Area is a multicounty campaign to turn the San Francisco Bay Area into the first hepatitis B free area in the nation. Their mission is to provide free and low-cost hepatitis B testing, educate the community and physicians on hepatitis B, and promote routine testing and vaccination for Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) adults at risk.
About Asian Liver Center
The Asian Liver Center at Stanford University is the first non-profit organization in the United States that addresses the disproportionately high rates of chronic hepatitis B infection and liver cancer in Asians and Asian Americans. Founded in 1996, the center addresses the gaps in the fight against hepatitis B through a four-pronged approach of collaboration, advocacy, research, and education & outreach (CARE). The ultimate goal of the Center is to eliminate the transmission and stigma of hepatitis B, and reduce deaths from liver cancer and liver disease caused by chronic hepatitis B.
About End Hep C SF
End Hep C SF supports all San Franciscans living with and at risk for hepatitis C to maximize their health and wellness. They achieve this through prevention, education, testing, treatment, and linkage to reduce morbidity, mortality, and stigma related to hepatitis C. End Hep C SF envisions a San Francisco where hepatitis C is no longer a public health threat, and hepatitis C related health inequities have been eliminated.