Hepatitis Awareness Month Wrap-Up
The month of May marks Hepatitis Awareness Month. Throughout the month, HHHRC and its partner organization, Hep Free Hawaiʻi, raised awareness about the disease and ongoing efforts to provide vaccinations, screenings, and linkage to treatment. May 19 marked National Hepatitis Testing Day.
“It’s still an opportune moment for every adult in our state to make an appointment to get screened for hepatitis C. Hawaiʻi has one of the highest rates of liver cancer in the nation. Persons living with hepatitis B and C have the greatest risk of liver cancer. We are fortunate to have effective vaccines against hepatitis A and B and a cure for hepatitis C,” said HHHRC Executive Director Heather Lusk.
No-cost hepatitis C screening is available on an appointment basis at HHHRC’s clinic in Kakaʻako.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that approximately 65% of liver cancer cases are related to hepatitis B or C, with nearly 50% attributable to hepatitis C alone.
Although there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, treatment with medication that eliminates the virus is available. Earlier this year, Hawaiʻi received an “A” in Hepatitis C: State of Medicaid Access, which continually assesses hepatitis policies in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. In 2022, the state received a “D” grade. The change in score resulted from a provider memo from the Med-Quest Division of the state Department of Human Services that will foreseeably expand access to life-saving treatment for viral hepatitis C.
HFH also received private grant funding earlier this year to support its Micronesian Education for Liver Wellness Program.
In recent years HFH has worked with over 120 community partners on a strategy to eliminate viral hepatitis A, B, and C statewide. “Hep Free 2030” identifies five priorities to eliminate hepatitis in Hawaiʻi: awareness and education, access to services, advocacy at all levels, equity in everything, and data for decision-making. It also articulates four core values: harm reduction, social justice, intersectionality, and aloha.