On Saturday, October 9, the United States Burma Medical Association (USBMA) of Northern California and the Asian Liver Center (ALC) at Stanford held the first local and national Hepatitis B Screening dedicated to the Burmese community at Serramonte Del Rey in Daly City. The event was funded by Gilead Sciences, a pharmaceutical company actively involved in the research for treatment of Hep B.
The ALC, which conducted the screenings, ran a total of 149 blood tests, which is 99-percent of the program’s intended goal to screen 150 individuals.
“This was a very successful health event as the first free Hepatitis B Screening Program among Burmese-Americans who live in San Francisco and the Bay Area,” said Dr. Patrick Aung, Vice President of USBMA.
In addition to screenings, the program also provided health education, quizzes, and free gifts for attendees. Opposite the screening room, volunteer doctors and personnel discussed the different issues regarding Hep B, including the anatomy and physiology of a normal liver, clinical signs and symptoms of the disease, common modes of transmission, and serious complications of Hep B, like liver cancer.
Hep B currently affects one out of every 10 Asians in the U.S., as opposed to one out of every 1000 non-Asians. According to the U.S. Department of Health Services (USDHS), the Burmese population is highly at-risk, with about 15-percent of the Burmese population worldwide infected with chronic Hep B. Further research by the USDHS shows that Hep B surface antigen carrier rates are 40 times greater in the tropical regions, like Burma, than in the West.
“We [the Burmese-American community] all are aware of Hep B,” said Dr. Aung. “But most of them do not have knowledge of its complications, such as chronic Hepatitis, liver cancer (which is more dangerous than HIV), and its nature as a ‘silent killer.’”
USBMA plans to continue their mission to screen and educate the Burmese community in the Bay Area by turning the screening program into a regular event.
“We have a plan to do this every six months for the rest of the Burmese community, but we will change the place from Daly City to the Fremont area. It all depends on grants and feasibility,” said Dr. Aung. “Eventually, we would like to cover the whole Bay Area to include Oakland, Fremont, and San Jose.”