Hepatitis B and C are silent epidemics that can cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death. Although Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) represent less than 5% of the total US population, they account for 50% of nearly one million Americans living with chronic Hepatitis B and 27% of the almost 1,700 deaths resulting from chronic hepatitis B infection in the United States.
There are approximately 3.5 million Americans with chronic hepatitis C. The communities from China, Southeast Asia, most of Africa, and most Pacific Islands have all been identified as areas with a high prevalence for the Hepatitis B virus, with 8-15% of the population being carriers for the virus. The most recent data has shown that in the Washington, DC area African immigrants comprise 17% of the District’s immigrant population and the AAPI community encompasses 10% of the metropolitan area’s overall population.
Chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and/or the hepatitis C virus (HCV) are among the highest risk factors for causing liver cancer within the US. Cancer is the leading cause of death among AAPIs, accounting for 27% of all deaths, with liver cancer being the second highest cause of cancer death (14%). According to current research, the Laotian, Vietnamese, and Cambodian communities are identified as having particularly elevated rates of liver cancer due to the high prevalence of HBV in their country of origin and more recent immigration.