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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The National Hepatitis C Advocacy Council (NHCAC) enthusiastically announces the reintroduction of the Hepatitis C Epidemic Control and Prevention Act (S-521, HR-1290) by Congressional sponsors Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Representative Heather A. Wilson (R-NM). The Hepatitis C Epidemic Control and Prevention Act mandates a comprehensive federal hepatitis C program to include counseling and testing, early detection, surveillance, education, training, and research.
Hepatitis C is the most common chronic, blood-borne viral infection in the United States with an estimated 4 million Americans currently infected. The incidence of complications of long-standing, untreated chronic hepatitis C such as cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer are expected to increase by 60 percent -200 percent by the end of the current decade. Direct medical care costs and indirect costs associated with disability, lost productivity, and premature death are expected to exceed $85 billion by the year 2019.
Originally introduced but not voted upon in 2003, the reintroduction of the Hepatitis C Epidemic Control and Prevention Act has been a bipartisan effort. The 13 current cosponsors of the companion bills include Senators Cornyn (R-TX), Kennedy (D-MA) and Schumer (D-NY), and Representatives Abercrombie (D-HI), Berman (D-CA), Doggett (D-TX), McGovern (D-MA), McNulty (D-NY), Meeks (D-NY), Owens (D-NY), Payne (D-NJ), Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Towns (D-NY).
The Hepatitis C Epidemic Control and Prevention Act is the conceptual brainchild of NHCAC, a coalition of 20 hepatitis C organizations from across the nation that work collaboratively to advocate for public health policy that supports and promotes hepatitis C prevention, control, research, and services. Council members, many personally affected by HCV, have worked tirelessly over the past two years to inform Congressional leaders about the needs of the hepatitis C community.
"The reintroduction of The Hepatitis C Epidemic Control and Prevention Act heralds a new opportunity for Congressional leadership to establish and strengthen the federal response to hepatitis C," said NHCAC president Andi Thomas. "I speak on behalf of all NHCAC members in saying we are thankful to the sponsors and cosponsors of S-521 and HR-1290 for their leadership, courage, and compassion in reintroducing this crucial legislation."