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May As World Hepatitis Awareness Month

Rep. Michael M. Honda

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Madam Speaker, I rise to recognize May as World Hepatitis Awareness Month and May 19th as World Hepatitis Day.

I commend the House Energy and Commerce Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee for their support for raising awareness of the risks and consequences of undiagnosed Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C infections and the need for governmental and public health actions. I also want to thank my good friends Rep. Ed Towns and Rep. Bill Cassidy for working with me on hepatitis issues and speaking out on World Hepatitis Day.

An estimated 5.3 million people living in the United States are infected with either Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C. Hepatitis viruses are highly contagious viruses that infect the liver, cause liver disease, liver cancer, and premature death. Hepatitis patients are found in every Congressional district in every state across the U.S. Tragically, more than half are unaware of their status. Hepatitis is often called a silent crisis, but we cannot afford to be silent any more, and we will not be silent any more.

I introduced H.R. 3974, the Viral Hepatitis and Liver Cancer Control and Prevention Act of 2009 to unite the Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C community in a singular cause. H.R. 3974 will amend the Public Health Service Act to make critical improvements for education for patients and health care providers, access to immunization and screening, and surveillance and referral to care programs. The Act will also put in place a coordinated federal response to fight viral hepatitis. Through this legislation, and with strategic investments in public health and prevention programs, the lives of tens of thousands of people across the nation will be improved.

I commend the Obama Administration and Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services Dr. Howard Koh for developing an intradepartmental viral hepatitis working group to improve the public health response to the disease, and for working with outside partners to increase access to quality health care and reduce the health effects from viral hepatitis.

I urge all of my colleagues to support the goals and ideals of World Hepatitis Awareness Month and to support H.R 3974. Through comprehensive education, research, and coordination, we can highlight the global nature of chronic viral hepatitis epidemics, work to improve the quality of life for those diagnosed, and prevent further spread of the disease.