Third Annual National African American Hepatitis C Action Day Aims to Raise Awareness, Increase HCV Testing and Linkage to Care in the Black Community

Tuskegee, Ala., Mayor, Johnny Ford, Unites More than 75 Organizations to Fight Hepatitis C in the African American Community

Jul 22, 2015, 13:54 ET from The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS

NEW YORK, July 22, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc. (NBLCA) announced today that it will join with more than 75 partners in over 20 states across the country to support and participate in education and awareness events taking place this week in recognition of National African American Hepatitis C (HCV) Action Day (NAAHCAD), July 25th, a day aimed at reducing the high incidence of HCV infection in black communities.

To promote awareness and draw attention to this neglected health disparity, the NAAHCAD initiative targets areas primarily in the South where the virus has had the greatest impact on the African American community. With the assistance of local health partners, government agencies, and elected officials, free testing and informational events will be offered throughout the day in various cities across the United States.

One such city is Tuskegee, Ala., a city rich in African-American history. On July 23, Mayor Johnny Ford of Tuskegee is bringing together leaders in the African American community, including the National Medical Association, 100 Black Men, NBLCA among others to share best practices and collaborate on the design and implementation of a rapid testing and linkage to care program that will serve as a model for southern cities affected by HCV.

"African Americans are disproportionately impacted by hepatitis C, and it is a leading cause of death for African Americans over the age of 45. In Tuskegee, the rate of acute hepatitis C infection has more than doubled from 2007 to 2011," said Tuskegee Mayor Johnny Ford. "The sad part is that even though today there is a cure for hepatitis C, most people living with hepatitis C are unaware they are infected. This is why I've partnered with the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS to help spread the word about hepatitis C. As a community, we can come together to make an impact on this silent and deadly disease."

A press conference will be held on Friday, July 24 at 10:00 am at City Hall, located at 101 Fonville Street, Tuskegee, where Mayor Ford will announce the outcome of the planning meeting.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly five million Americans — more than 75 percent of whom are "Baby Boomers" born between 1945 and 1965—are infected with the HCV virus and, because there are often no noticeable symptoms, most don't know they are infected. African Americans are 74.6 percent more likely to have ever been infected with hepatitis C relative to the overall population.

"Today, approximately 5.2 million Americans have hepatitis C – a large majority of them African Americans – and the vast majority does not know that they are infected," said NBLCA President and CEO C. Virginia Fields. "New therapies are now available that can cure hepatitis C, making awareness and testing more critical than ever. It is time for us as a community and as a nation, to take action, as this day implies, and spread the word about the importance of testing and linkage to care and the ability to effectively treat this deadly disease."

The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc., (NBLCA) is a 501c3, not for profit organization with a mission to educate, mobilize, and empower Black leaders to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS and other health disparities in their local communities. Founded in 1987, and headquartered in New York City, NBLCA is the largest nonprofit organization of its kind in the United States.

Media Contact:
Melissa Baker, NBLCA 

SOURCE The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS