Men’s Health Week – An Opportunity to Address Viral Hepatitis Among Men

Content From: Richard Wolitski, Ph.D., Acting Director, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesPublished: June 13, 20164 min read


Summary: Men die from hepatitis B and C at higher rates than women. During Men’s Health Week, we can raise awareness and promote viral hepatitis testing, vaccination, and treatment for men.

June 13-18, 2016 is Men’s Health Week, part of Men’s Health Month, which gives us an opportunity to increase awareness of the burden of viral hepatitis experienced by men and encourage testing and follow up care. Viral hepatitis is a leading cause of liver cancer in the United States. The liver cancer death rate is increasing faster than the death rate from all other cancers and it disproportionately impacts men.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 3.5 million people are living with hepatitis C in the United States, and many of them do not know they are infected. An estimated 850,000 people are living with hepatitis B. Chronic hepatitis B and C can lead to serious liver disease, liver cancer, and death if undiagnosed and untreated.

Protecting men’s health includes cancer and viral hepatitis prevention efforts. During Hepatitis Awareness Month in May, federal, non-federal, and community partners worked to increase awareness of viral hepatitis and encourage testing and increased access to care. These partnerships are an important part of implementing the national Viral Hepatitis Action Plan.

The Burden of Hepatitis B Among Men

According to the CDC, in 2014:

The CDC’s Know Hepatitis B campaign recently updated and enhanced resources for increasing awareness of hepatitis B, particularly among AAPI populations. The campaign includes tools that can be used to encourage men to get tested. These include a video public service announcement, “A Father-Daughter Conversation and Hepatitis B: Are You At Risk?” factsheets, and hepatitis B risk assessments in English and several Asian languages.

The Burden of Hepatitis C Among Men

Regarding hepatitis C, the CDC also reported in 2014 that:

  • New hepatitis C infections had increased by 250% from 2010-2014, with rates increasing more rapidly among men than women.
  • 13,998 men died from hepatitis C, compared with 5,661 women, a 2.5-fold higher death rate for men.
  • Chronic hepatitis C also disproportionately impacts baby boomers (persons born between 1945 and 1965), and baby boomer men are more likely to be infected than women.

Because 75% of all hepatitis C infections are among baby boomers, the CDC’s Know More Hepatitis campaign includes a variety of materials to encourage baby boomers to get tested.

Getting Involved
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Improving men’s awareness about viral hepatitis can lead to potentially life-saving action such as vaccination, testing, and treatment. These are critical for men’s health and cancer prevention. Here are a few ways to take action this week and moving forward.

  • Educate the men in your life about the higher rates of new viral hepatitis infections and deaths among men and the importance of vaccination, testing, and care.
  • Take the five-minute, free and anonymous online Hepatitis Risk Assessment and encourage the men you know – coworkers, family, neighbors, and others to do the same.
  • Get tested for viral hepatitis. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance plans are required to cover hepatitis C testing for adults at increased risk and everyone born 1945-1965. Hepatitis B testing is also covered for adults at risk without copay.
  • Get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B. These vaccines are safe and effective. The hepatitis B vaccine is considered the first anti-cancer vaccines.
  • Educate your community using materials from CDC’s Know Hepatitis B and Know More Hepatitis campaigns. These free materials are available to download or by mail.

Fortunately, there are many options for individuals living with hepatitis. Effective hepatitis B treatments are available and chronic hepatitis C infection is now curable in most cases. Viral hepatitis vaccination and screening for persons at risk are now covered preventive services under most health plans. Working together, we can increase awareness among men and populations at risk, increase testing and improve care. By doing so, we are advancing efforts to achieve the goals of the national Viral Hepatitis Action Plan and move us toward the elimination of viral hepatitis in the United States.