Hepatitis B: The Most Pressing Asian American and Pacific Islander Health Issue

With the month of May comes Hepatitis Awareness Month and Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month . Did you know that the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has the highest risk of developing Hepatitis B among all ethnic groups? According to clinical research conducted by the CDC, 1 in 12 AAPI individuals will be affected by Hepatitis B. This is due to the overwhelming prevalence of Hepatitis B in many Asian and Pacific Island countries.

If left untreated, Hepatitis B can lead to a much more serious health problem, liver cancer. Unfortunately, many who are afflicted with Hepatitis B are unaware because the disease is characterized by unnoticeable, “silent” symptoms. The symptoms including: headaches, jaundice, loss of appetite, nausea, and physical weakness can commonly be misattributed to more trivial ailments. Consequently, chronic Hepatitis B and liver cancer are two of the leading causes of death among the AAPI community.

With the encouragement of the CDC, AAPI individuals should be vigilant by talking to their medical provider about getting tested for Hepatitis B. The disease is preventable through a series of three shots over a six month period. If you were born in Asia or the Pacific Islands and have yet to be vaccinated, you should be proactive in doing so.

The onset of Hepatitis B is not only a national problem, affecting 1.2 million Americans, but also a global public health issue, with the CDC estimating 240 million people around the world living with Hepatitis B. Transnational organizations like the National Task Force on Hepatitis B and local advocacy groups like the Hepatitis B Initiative of Washington, D.C. are committed to alleviating the risks of the disease on the AAPI community.

If interested, CAPAL interns and program participants should focus their efforts on contributing to the campaign against Hepatitis B. With the help of innovative minds and commitment to public service of the AAPI youth, we can take the necessary steps to eradicate this silent, but deadly disease from future AAPI generations.

Jaycee Hart is a current University of Maryland freshman. She was a CAPAL intern for a day where she received first hand experience in a non-profit work setting.