MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2016

NBLCA supports proposed New York state legislation to expand hepatitis C testing

The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc., announced on Monday that it is advocating for the passage of New York state legislation that would expand access to testing for hepatitis C.

The NBLCA is working with allied organizations to support the passage of proposed New York State Senate Bill 2750 and proposed Assembly Bill 1286 to expand access to testing for the hepatitis C virus. The virus is reaching epidemic proportions in New York state and in the U.S. at large.

The proposed legislation would require hospitals and healthcare practitioners to offer hepatitis C screenings to all baby boomers, people born between 1945 and 1964. The baby boomer generation is being disproportionally affected by the virus. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 75 percent of the 3.2 million adults with HCV in the U.S. are in the baby boomer generation.

"By getting tested and determining their status, those at risk can get life-saving treatment and learn how to protect themselves against future infection," C. Virginia Fields, the president and CEO of NBLCA, said. "We need to educate and inform as many people as possible about this often invisible virus that has become a silent epidemic in the United States. We urge New Yorkers to contact their local and state elected officials to support passage of this critical state legislation that will expand access to testing and set an example for other communities throughout the nation."

Boomers have the highest HCV infection rate of any group in New York state. The New York State Department of Health estimates that more than 200,000 New Yorkers have the virus and that 75 percent of them do not know their status. African Americans are twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to be infected and are less likely to be tested and receive treatment.

HCV is transmitted by blood-to-blood contact and there is no vaccine for the virus.

Advocates for the proposed legislation held a rally on Tuesday in Albany, N.Y.