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National Hepatitis B Awareness Week aims to raise awareness of the STD (15984)

15984Health News2005-05-11

National Hepatitis B Awareness Week aims to raise awareness of the STD

This week marks National Hepatitis B Awareness Week, and health advocates hope to educate the gay community about the disease, which can be passed through sexual contact--including unprotected anal sex and oral-anal contact--and that an effective preventative vaccine exists. Bristol-Myers Squibb and the Hepatitis B Foundation are hosting a public education program, called "AIM for the B: Awareness, Involvement, and Mobilization for Chronic Hepatitis B," which includes events in four cities with high hepatitis B rates--New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and San Jose, Calif.

Organizers say more than 1 million Americans have hepatitis B infection, and an estimated 5,000 U.S. adults die of hepatitis B-related liver problems each year. In people infected with HIV or with other immune system disorders, hepatitis B becomes a chronic condition in about 90% of those infected.

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association recommends that all sexually active gay and bisexual men be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B but notes that fewer than half of such men have been vaccinated.

"There is a tremendous lack of awareness for chronic hepatitis B in this country," said Democratic U.S. senator Dianne Feinstein of California in a press release. "During National Hepatitis B Awareness Week, programs such as 'AIM for the B' are important because they help raise awareness for the disease and encourage Americans at risk to get tested and physicians and patients to take an active approach to managing chronic hepatitis B."

In addition to being spread through sexual contact, hepatitis B virus can be transmitted through contact with the blood of someone infected with the disease. Sharing needles--including those used for tattooing--razors, toothbrushes, and sex toys all can transmit hepatitis B.

For more information about the "AIM for the B" program and local National Hepatitis B Awareness Week events, contact the Hepatitis B Foundation at (215) 489-4900 or go online to

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