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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Local NGO to mark World Anti-Hepatitis Day with testing

By John McPhaul

Under the initiative Knowledge is Power!, the Immunization and Health Promotion Coalition of Puerto Rico, better known as VOCES, will observe World Anti-Hepatitis Day later this week to raise awareness and eliminate viral hepatitis as a threat to public health on the island.

Physicians and technologists will be conducting tests free of charge from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. on Thursday at VOCES vaccination centers in Plaza del Norte in Hatillo, Plaza las Américas in San Juan and Mayagüez Mall in Mayagüez.

The World Health Organization (WHO) called for the elimination of viral hepatitis by the year 2030, defined as achieving a 95% reduction in new cases of hepatitis B, 90% reduction in new cases of hepatitis C, and a 65% reduction in mortality (versus 2015).

Civil society has a key role to play in raising the profile of viral hepatitis and advocating for public policy efforts to eradicate it.

Health professionals also have a key role in defining current challenges and defending resources needed to achieve phase-out goals.

“Our commitment to the health of the country is to unify efforts so that everyone knows about the virus, its detection, prevention with vaccines and the treatment available in Puerto Rico,” said Lilliam Rodríguez Capó, CEO and founder of VOCES. “We urge the population to know and clear up doubts about whether they are positive for the Hepatitis C virus. You will only know if you take a test. This Thursday you can visit our centers of vaccination in Plaza de Norte, Mayagüüez Mall and Plaza Las Américas, where we will be conducting these tests for free.”

The objective of the initiative is to call on all sectors to together define strategies for controlling and detecting viral hepatitis infections and disparities through screening, Immunization, and access to treatment and care, aligned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Viral Hepatitis Strategic Plan, and the WHO’s Viral Hepatitis Elimination Plan.

VOCES has made a call to private and public entities to gather a group of experts that in consensus develop recommendations to promote vaccination against hepatitis A and hepatitis B, and reduce disparities for those already infected, particularly with hepatitis C, which is not preventable by vaccination but is curable in most cases. The recommendations are intended to support the efforts of local health authorities to eliminate hepatitis C in Puerto Rico.

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