Fiona Ma for State Assembly
News

Hepatitis B awareness is key in prevention

Approximately 1.4 million Americans are infected with hepatitis B. More than half of the 1.4 million Americans infected are Asian/ Pacific islander Americans — I am one of them.

I contracted the disease from my mother via perinatal expo- sure which is a common way hepatitis B is transmitted. I am perfectly healthy and fine today, but hepatitis B is some- thing that should be monitored closely because the disease rarely shows symptoms until it is too late for treatment. This is why I feel it is extremely important for people to get screened and vaccinated.

Chronic hepatitis B is the leading cause of liver cancer and liver transplants. Individuals chronically infected with hepatitis B are at a higher risk of developing cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer. Hepatitis B-related liver cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among Asian/Pacific Islander men.

Talking about issues like hepatitis B isn’t particularly “sexy,” but hepatitis B is becoming more and more of a problem within the Asian-American community and we need to do more about it. We need to bring the discussion to the forefront and make sure everything that can be done to promote awareness and prevention of hepatitis B is done.

A lack of awareness coupled with cultural differences and language barriers prevent many Asian-Americans from getting screened and seeking medical attention. Many people who contract hepatitis B will never develop symptoms, but can still transmit the disease to others.

For the last two years, I’ve worked in San Francisco to make people aware of the impact of hepatitis B in California’s diverse communities. Through the Hep B Free campaign (www.sfhepbfree.org), we’ve tested thousands of San Franciscans, provided vaccination and treatment information, and formed a network of groups committed to ending hepatitis B.

I hope you will join me and other organizations in supporting hepatitis B awareness and prevention. It is important that we all do our part to bring hepatitis B to the forefront, and normalize the discussion of this deadly and silent disease.