PRINCETON, N.J. and DOYLESTOWN, Pa., May 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, the Hepatitis B Foundation and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company announced the launch of the third-annual "AIM for the B: Awareness, Involvement and Mobilization for Chronic Hepatitis B" program, a public education initiative designed to elevate awareness of chronic hepatitis B as a serious health issue in the United States and emphasize the importance of disease management, especially among Asian Americans who are disproportionately affected with the disease. The program will take place May 15-22 to coincide with "National Hepatitis B Awareness Week," as declared by the Hepatitis B Foundation.
In the United States, approximately one out of every 10 Asian Americans is chronically infected with hepatitis B, resulting in more than half of the chronic hepatitis B cases and half of the deaths resulting from chronic hepatitis B infection. Today, only a small percentage of diagnosed chronic hepatitis B patients are being actively managed for their disease. Every year, approximately one million people worldwide die from chronic hepatitis B because they are diagnosed past the point where medical care and intervention can be effective.
"Through the 'AIM for the B' program, we hope to educate Asian Americans about the significant impact chronic hepatitis B has on this community, and to create a sense of urgency around the importance of seeking care," said Joan Block, co-founder of the Hepatitis B Foundation.
While liver tests (alanine aminotransferase, ALT) and other markers (hepatitis B e-antigen) have traditionally been used for diagnosis and as treatment markers, viral load, or the concentration of hepatitis B virus in the blood, is becoming an increasingly important marker for both diagnosis and management of chronic hepatitis B.
"I was not diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B, a disease I contracted at birth, until I was 39 years old," said Arline Loh, a patient of Chinese descent living in Wilmington, DE. "By the time I was diagnosed with the disease, I suffered extensive damage to my liver. What I didn't realize was that the amount of virus in my blood might have predicted the level of damage. Thankfully, I was able to work with my doctor to start actively managing my disease."
As a precursor to "National Hepatitis B Awareness Week" and the "AIM for the B" program, the Hepatitis B Foundation partnered with United States Congressional leaders Charlie Dent (R-PA) and Mike Honda (D-CA) to organize a Congressional Briefing in Washington, DC, on May 11. At the briefing, Congressman Dent and Congressman Honda, along with government health agencies, third-party organizations, physicians and chronic hepatitis B patients, addressed Congressional leaders and aides about the importance of prioritizing chronic hepatitis B as a major health concern in the United States.
"Even though it is estimated that several thousand Americans will die from hepatitis B and hepatitis B-related liver complications this year, there still remains a lack of emphasis around the seriousness of this disease and its relation to liver cancer," said Congressman Dent.
"We need to build on the momentum generated at the recent Congressional Briefing to focus our attention on this disease and the importance of early diagnosis and active management to decrease its impact among at-risk populations, including Asian Pacific Islander Americans," said Congressman Honda.
The "AIM for the B" program will focus efforts on New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco where prevalence of chronic hepatitis B is high. Well-regarded physicians, chronic hepatitis B patients and patient advocacy organizations will raise awareness within the Asian American community by speaking about their personal experiences with the disease, the importance of increasing education and awareness of maintaining a healthy liver, and the benefits of seeking early diagnosis and appropriate care.
For more information about the "AIM for the B" program and local events, contact the Hepatitis B Foundation at 215-489-4900 or visit http://www.hepb.org.
About the Hepatitis B Foundation
The Hepatitis B Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure and improving the quality of life for those affected by hepatitis B worldwide through a comprehensive program of research, education, and patient advocacy. The organization is committed to raising funds for focused research, promoting disease awareness, supporting immunization and treatment initiatives, and serving as the primary source of hepatitis B information for patients and their families, the medical and scientific community, and the general public. Visit the Hepatitis B Foundation at http://www.hepb.org.
About Bristol-Myers Squibb
Bristol-Myers Squibb is a global pharmaceutical and related healthcare products company whose mission is to extend and enhance human life. Visit Bristol-Myers Squibb at http://www.bms.com.
Bristol-Myers Squibb Company; Hepatitis B Foundation