A wonderful thing happened this last Thursday, July 28, 2011. While eating lunch, I took “a break” by looking at my linked in groups. There I found an announcement that this day was the first ever World Hepatitis Day. I jumped over to the White House live streaming and I was just in time! I got to watch several speakers during my lunch.
Sounds mundane perhaps, but I sobbed. My husband, Jim, would have been overjoyed to see this attention being brought to Hepatitis, and particularly to Hepatitis C. Jim valiantly fought HepC with two rounds of interferon treatment. He was what is known as a non-responder. Eventually he developed cirrhosis of the liver. He died waiting for a liver transplant.
Approximately 3.2 million Americans have chronic HepC, a leading cause of cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease and liver cancer. According to the World Health Organization, globally 130 million people have Hepatitis C. Many people infected with HepC do not know that they have the virus – it is often referred to as the silent disease because it can be in the body for decades without any symptoms.
I think Jim would have cried to hear the Presidential proclamation read regarding Hepatitis.
“We must make sure that this “silent epidemic” does not go unnoticed by health professionals or by communities across our country…On this day, we renew our support for those living with hepatitis, and for their families, friends, and communities who are working to create a brighter, healthier future.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim July 28, 2011, as World Hepatitis Day. I encourage citizens, Government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and communities across the Nation to join in activities that will increase awareness about hepatitis and what we can do to prevent it.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-seventh day of July, in the year of our Lord two thousand eleven, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-sixth.”
I wept when I heard the testimony of U.S. Representative Hank Johnson, who has HepC. He openly discussed the stigma patients face, for most assume you must have been an IV-drug user. I recall even asking my husband that. Jim asked me to go with him to doctor visits for moral support. I could understand why after going with him. Doctors looked at him as though he were some low-life druggie.
It is thrilling to see this high level support and attention. Additional U.S. Representatives who spoke were Bill Cassidy (LA), Judy Chu (CA), Michael Honda (CA), and Barbara Lee (CA). Natalie Cole and Gregg Allman, both of whom have HepC, are promoting awareness. You can see a video by Dr. Howard Koh on my videos page.
Finally. Finally. The world is saying “the current level of suffering is unacceptable.” Hepatitis deserves more attention, understanding and action. Amen.