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Combating the Silent Epidemic of Viral Hepatitis: Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month

Please join HHS and our public health partners across the Nation in observing Hepatitis Awareness Month in May.

Hepatitis is a hidden epidemic with significant public health consequences.

  • An estimated 3.5-5.3 million persons are living with viral hepatitis in the United States, and millions more are at risk for infection.
  • Because viral hepatitis can persist for decades without symptoms, 65%-75% of infected Americans remain unaware of their infection status and are not receiving care and treatment.
  • Hepatitis (which is largely preventable), is the leading cause of liver cancer. Without timely care, 1 in 4 persons with chronic hepatitis will develop liver cirrhosis or liver cancer.

Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis

The Department of Health and Human Services is committed to ensuring that new cases of viral hepatitis are prevented and that persons who are already infected are tested; informed about their infection; and provided with counseling, care, and treatment. This increasing commitment is evidenced in the new Healthy People 2020 (HP 2020) report, the first Healthy People publication to document increasing viral hepatitis awareness among infected persons as a formal HHS objective. In addition to moving the nation towards reaching HP 2020 objectives, by 2020, full implementation of the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan could result in:

  • an increase in the proportion of persons who are aware of their hepatitis B virus infection, from 33% to 66%;*
  • an increase in the proportion of persons who are aware of their hepatitis C virus infection, from 45% to 66%;**
  • a 25% reduction in the number of new cases of HCV infection; and
  • elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HBV.

On May 12, 2011, HHS issued Combating the Silent Epidemic of Viral Hepatitis: Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis [PDF, 672KB] which outlines actions, based on scientific evidence and extensive real-world experience that will serve as a roadmap for reaching the Healthy People objectives.

The Viral Hepatitis Action Plan presents robust and dynamic steps for improving the prevention of viral hepatitis and the care and treatment provided to infected persons and for moving the nation towards achieving Healthy People 2020 goals. Some of these life-saving actions already are well underway. Other actions, representing innovations in practice, technology, and therapy, will require new strategic directions and commitment.

The success of these actions is contingent on departmental and interagency collaboration, stakeholder support, and engagement of the diverse communities being served. Also critical to the success of the plan are policy-related support and system changes, which likely will be brought about by the Affordable Care Act.

In this unique era of unprecedented opportunity, viral hepatitis activities can be better coordinated and aligned with the nation's reformed infrastructure for health. This Viral Hepatitis Action Plan will serve as the guide for HHS agencies working to combat the silent epidemic of viral hepatitis.

To learn more about viral hepatitis and to find additional resources, please visit www.aids.gov/hepatitis


*Data source: The Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) Risk Factor Survey (www.cdc.gov/reach)
**Data source: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) (www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes.htm).