MAY 18, 2023 THE WHITE HOUSE - BRIEFING ROOM- PRESiDENTIAL ACTIONS
Thousands of Americans die every year of viral hepatitis — infections of the liver that can be managed or cured if patients know they are infected and can get treatment. On National Hepatitis Testing Day, we urge Americans to get tested and recommit to ensuring that those who are diagnosed can receive lifesaving care. Viral hepatitis is a hidden epidemic. For those with hepatitis C, which spreads through contact with infected blood and is the most common strain, it can be years between the time someone is infected and when they first present symptoms, leaving far too many unaware that they are sick. This can further spread the virus, delay treatment, and lead to serious liver disease — including cirrhosis, liver failure, liver cancer, and even death. Pregnant women with untreated hepatitis C can also pass the virus on to their newborns. It disproportionately affects Black Americans and Native Americans, who too often cannot access quality health care, and it is more common among those experiencing homelessness and those who are incarcerated as more than a third of people in a jail or prison can be positive at a given time. The good news is that we now have a cure for hepatitis C that is 95 percent effective — but its high cost, among other factors, has kept it from many of the more than 2 million Americans in need.
My new Budget includes a bold plan to change that this decade — ending hepatitis C as a public health threat by expanding testing, slashing the high cost of treatment, and promoting awareness of the risks and the cure. It draws on work that the Department of Veterans Affairs has done in treating more than 100,000 affected veterans since 2014. My plan would make testing quicker and simpler with more point-of-care diagnostic tests so patients can be tested and treated in a single visit, rather than having to return several times before determining their infection status. It would pioneer innovative approaches to treating hepatitis C, including a national antiviral subscription model, so more Americans can get affordable care and taxpayers can save billions of dollars through prevention and the reduced need for treatment of advanced liver diseases. My plan would also support grassroots public health groups; train more health care professionals; and expand mobile, telehealth, and community sites focused on hepatitis testing and care. And it would boost progress toward a hepatitis C vaccine.