In 2009, Latinos, the fastest-growing minority population in the US, received a diagnosis of hepatitis A twice as often as non-Hispanic whites. As compared to non-Hispanic whites in the same age group, Latinos age 40 and over are 30% more likely to contract hepatitis B. Although Latinos are diagnosed less frequently with hepatitis C than non-Hispanic whites (0.15 cases per 100,000 for Latinos versus 0.22 per 100,000 for non-Hispanic whites), viral hepatitis is twice as often a cause of death for Latinos than it is for whites and Latinos have higher prevalence rates of hepatitis C. Because of social and economic issues, including the lack of access to care, Latinos also have more rapid build-up of liver scarring than non-Hispanic whites. For example, Puerto Ricans with hepatitis C advance towards cirrhosis at younger age than other populations.
CHALLENGE FOR LATINOS IN CONFRONTING HEPATITIS: We must join as a Latino family regardless of country of origin into a united voice to bring awareness to the impact viral hepatitis is having in our communities. We must work to engage and empower patients to seek treatment and demand access to care regardless of immigration status. We must engage federal entities and public health officials to increase efforts to reach those that may be living with viral hepatitis and do not know it, and to scale up efforts to ensure vaccination. We must engage elected and appointed leadership, religious leaders, celebrities, governmental agencies, media and civic leaders so they will truly be our partners in addressing this health crisis. We must speak out in our churches, community groups, neighborhoods, legislatures, city councils, community forums and everywhere else that presents a platform to discuss the hard issues of sexuality and drug use and the related concerns of immigration and access to meaningful prevention and health care.
NATIONAL HISPANIC HEPATITIS AWARENESS DAY: May 15 is the one day we set aside to push forward with our commitment to bring awareness of hepatitis and engage our communities in a strong and fruitful response to a preventable viral hepatitis epidemic. The theme for the first ever National Hispanic Hepatitis Awareness Day in 2013 is Hablemos Sobre la Hepatitis (Let’s Talk About Hepatitis).