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African American Council On Liver Awareness Convenes In Washington D.C.
Concerns over the increasing number of hepatitis C cases in the past four months has brought together African Americans in the fields of medicine, social work and advocacy to the nation's capitol to discuss its implications in their community.
The AACLA summit took place at the Capital Hilton hotel, June 26-29, 2008, hosted by its Chief Executive Officer and President, Johanna Blanding-Koskinen, and included key health providers of the African American community: Mark Colomb, Ph.d, of "My Brother's Keeper," Luther Virgil, M.D. and CEO of the National Minority Clinical Research Association. (NMCRA) and Terrence Young, Program Manager/Outreach Coordinator of the "Community Education Group" based in Washington, D.C.
Johanna Blanding-Koskinen, previously the executive director of the Hepatitis C Multicultural Outreach, is the official spokesperson of the council, coordinating efforts to bring the hep C education, prevention and treatment message to the African American community, a group representing over 14% of the United States population. The seriousness of hepatitis C is compounded by the fact that African Americans tend to fall into the category with of the most resistant strain of the virus, and treatment is not always as effective for them as other races.
"As African Americans are not regularly sought out for clinical trials, this makes finding the right treatment more difficult," says Ms. Blanding-Koskinen.
AACLA's agenda will involve strategy sessions that will address the disproportionate effect of Hepatitis C on the African American population, including the creation of educational messages that are culturally sensitive, culturally appropriate, and encourages community education, awareness and responsibility in the prevention of spreading the virus.
AACLA's efforts, through programs like the Hepatitis C Multicultural Outreach will focus on the ten states with the highest population of African Americans, using various forms of media. Poster campaigns have already made an impact, across the United States, with slogans that read, "HEP C: LEARN HOW YOU GET IT. LEARN HOW NOT TO," and "IT'S NOT ABOUT COLOR. IT'S ABOUT CARE. IT'S ABOUT A CURE," speaking to the heart of health disparity issues within the African American community.
AACLA's poster campaign has brought calls from across the U.S., including states outside of the targeted campaign areas of New York, Florida, Maryland, Texas, and other states, where communities of color are of significant numbers. "We've received calls from everywhere - Arizona, New Mexico and Tijuana," says, Ms. Blanding-Koskinen.
It's no surprise to Ms. Blanding-Koskinen, that AACLA's key message: "It's not about color. It's about care. It's about a cure" has touched a nerve outside of the African American community. We get calls from everyone, not just African Americans," says Ms. Blanding-Koskinen. "Everyone is concerned about this virus, and they just want to talk with someone who can give them the tools to make right decisions about care.
"Our council turns no one away. We're here for everyone."
AACLA also offers free screening and testing for hep B and C nationwide, directing callers to agencies and organizations in their city that will provide health service and other resources as needed.
The African American Council on Liver Awareness (AACLA), is a national organization promoting viral hepatitis prevention, treatment and research in order to optimize the health of the African American community.
AACLA receives and identifies emerging and established information concerning products and services used to diagnose, prevent and treat viral hepatitis in the African American population. The council serves as a credible resource in both the African American community and the viral liver diseases arena by providing policy and information analysis, education and technical assistance.
AACLA has office locations: Washington D.C. and Kansas City, Missouri. Their toll-free hep C helpline is 1.888.436.HEP C (4372). The website is located at:
As the most common cause of liver-related deaths, Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is now regarded as a major Health problem in the US. HCV is thought to cause approximately 10,000 deaths annually in the US. Unfortunately, that number is expected to increase threefold by 2020.
In the US, people of all races are adversely affected by HCV infection. However, for reasons that are not yet understood, African Americans have disparate clinical features (e.g., response to therapy) and more complications from HCV infection than Caucasians.
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