For immediate release – June 10, 2013
Contact: Jeremy Saunders, 917-676-8041
Albany, NY – A bill that would require doctors and hospitals to start offering a hepatitis C test to patients born between 1945 and 1965, the “baby boomer” generation that has an infection rate five times higher than other age groups, passed the Assembly earlier today and is expected to pass the Senate later this week. Governor Cuomo has not yet expressed a public position on the bill. The bill is supported by dozens of organizations statewide, including the AARP and leading civil rights organizations.
“People deserve to know their hepatitis C status so they can take steps to protect their health,” said Diane Nunez, a VOCAL-NY leader living with hepatitis C from the Bronx. “Hepatitis C doesn’t need to be a death sentence – many people living with hepatitis C can now be cured with new medication. But people living with hepatitis C can only be cured if they know their status early enough, which is not happening under the current system. We want to thank Assembly Member Zembrowski for his commitment to ensuring New Yorkers can benefit from treatment advances in hepatitis C by learning their status and getting connected to care.”
If the bill passes the Senate and is signed by Governor Cuomo, New York would become the first state to pass a hepatitis C law based on new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) urging doctors to begin offering hepatitis C tests to baby boomers. The hepatitis C virus is the leading cause of liver disease and now kills more people than HIV/AIDS each year in the United States.
The bill was introduced by long-time Senate Health Committee Chair Kemp Hannon and Assembly Member Kenneth Zembrowski, whose father, a former Assembly Member, passed away due to liver disease after being diagnosed with the hepatitis C virus too late to benefit from treatment.
Over 100 people with hepatitis C and their allies are scheduled to rally at the million dollar staircase in the Capitol Building on Tuesday at 11am in support of the legislation.
About 40% of people who have been diagnosed with hepatitis C in New York reside in Upstate and on Long Island and 60% reside in NYC.
VOCAL-NY is a grassroots organization working to create healthy and just communities by building power among low-income people affected by HIV/AIDS, mass incarceration and the war on drugs.