May is Hepatitis Awareness Month, an annual opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of vaccination for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, testing for hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and the availability of effective care and curative treatment. This year, it is also an opportunity to highlight the value of integrating viral hepatitis services with HIV, sexually transmitted infection (STI), and substance use disorder (SUD) services as the nation seeks to end the viral hepatitis and HIV epidemics.
National Strategic Plans Call for a More Integrated Approach
The Viral Hepatitis National Strategic Plan (Viral Hepatitis Plan) is our nation’s comprehensive plan to eliminate viral hepatitis as a public health threat by 2030. It focuses on hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C—the three most common hepatitis viruses that have the most impact on the health of the nation.
The Viral Hepatitis Plan, the complementary HIV National Strategic Plan, and the STI National Strategic Plan recognize that viral hepatitis, HIV, STIs, and SUDs are part of a syndemic, or a set of linked health problems that interact synergistically and contribute to excess burden of disease in a population. The plans call for leveraging opportunities to more closely integrate services to improve health outcomes for individuals who may be at risk for or living with more than one condition.
A syndemic approach can take many forms, including providing multiple services at the same location, cross-training staff, and/or providing linkage to care and patient navigation services for those with multiple conditions to avoid duplication of efforts and fragmentation of services and better meet patients’ needs. The idea is that a more holistic approach will help prevent and control each disease and address the array of factors that give rise to them, which ultimately improves our ability to reach the targets set forth in both national strategic plans.
“Hepatitis Awareness Month is an important opportunity for all viral hepatitis, HIV, STI, and SUD stakeholders to revisit how they can strengthen collaborations to better support the prevention, diagnosis, care, and treatment of these diseases,” observed Timothy Harrison, PhD, Deputy Director for Strategic Initiatives, HHS Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy. “Identifying new opportunities for viral hepatitis, HIV, STI, and SUD activities to reinforce each other is especially important as we continue to recover from the service disruptions and other impacts due to COVID-19 and as we sharpen our focus on improving equity across public health and clinical care.”
What You Can Do
During Hepatitis Awareness Month, we encourage our partners at the local, state, and federal levels to:
- Learn more. Read about hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, including how to prevent them and whether you should talk to your health care provider about getting tested or vaccinated.
- Share what you know and encourage others. Utilize CDC’s Hepatitis Awareness Month resources to provide messages you can share via social media or other channels:
- Know More Hepatitis: Provides messages about CDC’s recommendations for all adults to get tested for hepatitis C.
- Know Hepatitis B: a multilingual national communications campaign promoting hepatitis B testing among Asian Americans, who make up 5 percent of the U.S. population but account for more than 50% of the 862,000 Americans estimated to be living with hepatitis B.
- Find out what others are doing. Visit our Mapping Hepatitis Elimination page to learn what states, local jurisdictions, and non-governmental organizations are doing to eliminate viral hepatitis among people they serve.
- Get involved. Consider what your agency or organization can do to strengthen the integration of your viral hepatitis, HIV, STI, and SUD prevention and treatment efforts and make that a part of your own plan to support implementation of the Viral Hepatitis, HIV, and STI National Strategic Plans. Help us celebrate our five-year Twitterversary by letting us know at @hhs_viralhep how you’re integrating activities. Your efforts might inspire others!
Appreciation for State and Local Viral Hepatitis Partners
Finally, we extend our sincere appreciation to the staff of state and local public health departments, health clinics, and community-based organizations who deliver viral hepatitis services, especially for their innovative work during the past year to maintain the availability of those services during the pandemic. We look forward to working with all of you as we collaborate across programs to further strengthen services and work to eliminate viral hepatitis.