On July 25, 2013, it was my pleasure to join with leaders from the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA), Inc, the Coalition for Positive Health Empowerment (COPE), and the Harm Reduction Coalition, in New York City to mark the first annual national observance of African American Hepatitis C Action Day. The commemoration was designed to heighten public awareness about the serious impact of the hepatitis C epidemic on communities of African descent.
Hepatitis C Disparities Among African Americans
As I’ve discussed in an earlier post, troubling hepatitis C disparities persist in the African American community:
- African Americans are twice as likely to have ever been infected with the hepatitis C virus when compared with the general U.S. population.
- While African Americans represent only 12 percent of the U.S. population, they make up roughly 22 percent of the estimated 3.2 million persons with chronic HCV infection.
- Moreover, chronic liver disease, often hepatitis C-related, is a leading cause of death among African Americans ages 45-64.
Action Day Activities
To raise greater awareness of this significant health disparity and promote education, testing, and treatment in local communities, the organizers of African American Hepatitis C Action Day conducted a variety of activities including:
- An event on the steps of City Hall in New York City which included reading of a proclamation by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In addition, a number of other political leaders from across New York also signaled their support with proclamations or letters of support, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York City Council’s Speaker, Christine Quinn.
- Free hepatitis C testing offered in numerous communities around the state of New York including Albany, Buffalo, New York City (including East and Central Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx), and Rochester.