Helping To Keep Our Communities Hep-Free
By Thaddeus Pham, viral hepatitis prevention coordinator, state Department of Health
Help Free Hawaii hepatitis care coordinator Jane Hanson opened up her email June 26 to find some good news:
“Hi Jane: I wanted to tell you that I finished my treatment … the hepatitis C virus is no longer detectable in my liver. My liver has also started to regenerate … Thank you for your help.”
This email was extremely satisfying for Hanson, given the challenges the client faced before being able to think about addressing his hepatitis C infection.
Hanson used her considerable skills and social work experience to get her client into stable housing so that he would be ready to take the hepatitis C medication that would save his life.
From homelessness to access to quality medical care, people living with viral hepatitis C and B can face many barriers to keeping themselves and their families healthy.
Hawaii has the highest rate of liver cancer in the country, and the leading causes in Hawaii are hepatitis B and C. Hepatitis B especially impacts Asians and Pacific Islanders, while hepatitis C is especially high among baby boomers (born 1945-1965). Yet, most people don’t know about hepatitis.
To address this silent epidemic, the Hep Free Hawaii coalition was formed in 2011 and now consists of more than 75 partner agencies and more than 1,100 individual members.
Hep Free Hawaii’s mission is to raise awareness about and increase access to hepatitis services for our local communities.
Since 2012, Hanson and her colleague Kendra Randerson have been providing care-coordination services through Hep Free Hawaii for people living with hepatitis B and C, and they have been able to help more than 125 people deal with these potentially fatal viral infections.
Without the coordinators’ help, many of their clients could end up with severe liver disease or liver cancer, both of which can be caused by chronic hepatitis B and C.
You can help keep our communities “Hep Free” by signing up as a volunteer or partner agency. To learn more, go to hepfree-hawaii.org, or contact Thaddeus Pham at firstname.lastname@example.org or 436-5884.
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