The AsianWeek Foundation, along with the San Francisco Hepatitis C Task Force and Hep B Free San Francisco, sponsored the 4th annual Hep B Free Gala: Ending All Hepatitis event at the Intercontinental Hotel in San Francisco on November 4th to raise awareness about Hepatitis B in San Francisco’s Asian American community, and in the United States. This event began in April 2007.
Hepatitis B occurs when the Hepatitis B virus (HBV) inflames the liver. This inflammation, in turn, could cause liver failure or liver cancer.
Of all the ethnic communities in San Francisco, the Asian American communities has one of the highest Hepatitis B rates at 34%, suggesting San Francisco has the highest liver cancer rate in the United States, according to Hep B Free San Francisco’s website. This disease is treatable and preventable, and yet many Asian Americans are unaware of it.
This Hep B Free Gala was designed to raise awareness about Hepatitis B to combat this health hazard, inviting Dr. Howard Koh, the 14th US Assistant Secretary for Health, to discuss comprehensive approaches towards ending hepatitis. He is also the first Asian American to hold this position.
“I think it’s wonderful that it’s reached a point where it’s a huge event,” said Paul Miyamoto, Captain with the San Francisco Sheriff Department. “With the effort, like the kinds of effort that we see in an event like this, it’s going to go a long way towards eradicating Hep B.”
Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, who is also the honorary chairperson for Hep B Free San Francisco, is thrilled Dr. Koh is not just attending this event but also advocating Hepatitis B at the federal level, working with the Obama Administration to end this disease. Meanwhile, she is pushing for reform and more funding on this illness at the state level.
She implores Asian Americans to share their struggles with Hepatitis B, sharing, for instance, their family’s struggles. Too often, she says, Asian Americans do not talk about Hepatitis B because of the stigma attached to this illness but their personal stories could encourage everyone to get tested and screened for Hepatitis B.
“I think that will help us tremendously in getting the word out,” she said.
Fiona Ma is raising awareness about Hepatitis B by sharing her relationship with this illness. “I live with the disease, so it’s very personal,” she said.
This personal disclosure, she says, would help those not affected by Hepatitis B to understand more about this illness, that there is vaccination and medication and that it is possible to exterminate this disease.
“There is no reason for people to suffer and have liver cancer,” she said.