MIAMI, Feb. 16, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Merck (NYSE: MRK) (known as MSD outside the United States and Canada) today announced that three-time GRAMMY® award-winning Cuban-American recording artist and songwriter Jon Secada is adding his voice to the Tune In to Hep C public health campaign to help raise awareness of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Secada revealed for the first time today that his father recently passed away from complications associated with chronic HCV infection, a disease that disproportionately affects the Hispanic community. He hopes that sharing his family's personal experience through this bilingual awareness campaign will activate Hispanic Americans with chronic HCV to take action and speak to their doctors about their options.
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Secada joins Merck, the American Liver Foundation (ALF) and fellow GRAMMY® winners Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band and Natalie Cole on the Tune In to Hep C initiative, which Merck and ALF launched last year.
Chronic HCV is a viral infection of the liver that is potentially serious and can damage the liver over time and lead to cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease and liver cancer. Of the approximately 3.2 million Americans who have chronic HCV, an estimated one million are Hispanic. Research has shown that complications due to chronic HCV develop more quickly and result in more health issues in Hispanics when compared to other ethnic groups, especially considering many people infected with chronic HCV, Hispanic or non-Hispanic, do not know that they have the virus – approximately 70 to 80 percent of people newly infected with the virus do not have symptoms.
"My father chose not to tell anyone about his disease for a long time, and he chose not to take action against it for reasons I may never understand. Before he passed away, he told me that he wanted me to share his story to help other people like him who have chronic hepatitis C but aren't taking action," said Secada, who was unaware of his father's diagnosis for more than a decade. "You can't be silent with a silent disease that has consequences like chronic hepatitis C -- you need to talk to your doctor and talk to your family. Take it from me, the people who love you want to be there to help you, and want you to be there for them."
The American Liver Foundation partnered with Merck on the Tune In to Hep C campaign to help address barriers that can keep people from managing their disease, including lack of awareness and social stigma. The American Liver Foundation is a national organization advocating for those living with liver disease and their families, and provides education, support and research for the prevention, treatment and cure of liver disease.
"Chronic hepatitis C disproportionately affects the Hispanic community but, unfortunately, there is stigma and low awareness of the disease and its potential complications, so it is not widely discussed among Hispanics in the U.S.," said Newton Guerin, president and chief executive officer, American Liver Foundation. "We hope Jon's desire to turn his family's loss into a positive message for those who face this disease will encourage them to take action."
Information about chronic HCV in the Hispanic community, as well as exclusive video of Secada telling his personal story, can be found on www.HepatitisCTocaElTema.com, a Spanish-language website that launched today. Secada's story, as well as Allman and Cole's, also can be found on the campaign's English website, www.TuneInToHepC.com.
"For more than 30 years, Merck has been committed to fighting chronic HCV. That commitment extends beyond science and is part of our overall mission to help people around the world be well," said Mark Timney, president, Global Human Health - U.S. Market, Merck. "We believe Jon's message is an important one that will motivate Hispanic Americans with hepatitis C to take action and speak with their doctors, and we applaud him for his efforts in this campaign."
About Jon Secada Secada is a three-time GRAMMY award-winning Cuban-American recording artist and songwriter who has released a string of hits in both English and Spanish. He has sold more than 20 million albums since his self-titled debut album in 1992. Jon Secada (SBK/EMI) sold more than six million copies worldwide and was certified triple platinum in the U.S., where it reached No. 15 among Billboard Pop albums. He later scored a No. 5 Pop hit with the Gold single "Just Another Day," and three more top 30 hits, "Angel," "I'm Free," and "Do You Believe in Us?" The Spanish-language version of the album, Otro Dia Mas Sin Verte (EMI-Latin), became the top Latin album of 1992 earning him his first GRAMMY Award for Best Latin Pop Album.
Recently, Secada participated as a celebrity contestant on Univision's hit dance show "Mira Quien Balia" (Latin version of "Dancing with the Stars"), and he released his highly anticipated new Spanish album, Otra Vez (YME Records/Universal), in February 2011. Secada is currently working on his next English album, I'm Never Too Far Away, which is expected to be released in 2012.
Secada's father Jose was born in Cuba in 1928 and remained there until 1970 when he moved his family to the United States. After being diagnosed with chronic HCV, he waited for more than 10 years to reveal his diagnosis to his son. Jose Secada was a proud man who wanted to be strong and provide for his family. He did not feel sick initially, so he did not follow up with his doctor and never took action against his disease. Ultimately, he began to experience complications, but did not understand the potential consequences until it was too late and the damage to his liver was irreparable. Before his father passed away in November of 2011, Secada received his blessing to share their family's story to educate others about the disease.
About The American Liver Foundation The American Liver Foundation (ALF) is the nation's leading nonprofit organization promoting liver health and disease prevention. ALF provides research, education and advocacy for those affected by liver-related diseases, including hepatitis. For more information, please visit www.liverfoundation.org or call 1-800-GO-LIVER. Spanish speaking operators are available.
About Merck Today's Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
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SOURCE Merck; The American Liver Foundation