African Hepatitis B & C Subcommittee Inaugural Meeting Highlights
Joint Subcommittee of the NYC Hepatitis B Coalition & Hepatitis C Task Force

April 4th (2-5 PM) – African Services Committee 429 West 127th Street, NY 10027

In attendance: See Below. Stay connected through the ‘NYC Hepatitis B & C Community Coalitions Linkedin Group’ and the ‘NYC Liver Health Facebook Page’

Meeting Highlights

Introduction: Demetri Blanas, MD, Mount Sinai & African Services Committee & Nirah Johnson, NYC Department of Health,  Office of Viral Hepatitis Coordination

  • Background: Viral hepatitis is a significant worldwide health problem.  Untreated viral hepatitis can lead to liver damage, liver cirrhosis and liver cancer, and it is one of the top infectious disease killers in the world.   In many cases the disease is asymptomatic, and can only be detected through a blood test.  The prevalence of viral hepatitis infection rates varies with country of origin.  The disease is highly endemic in many parts of Africa (defined by the CDC as 8-20%), and prevalence rates amongst Africans living in the U.S. are similar to rates in Africa. There is a large African-born population living in the United States, specifically in New York City.  However, there is a lack of public health awareness about the burden of disease in this population.
  • The objectives of the African Hepatitis B & C Subcommittee are:
  • To build community and provider partnerships for prevention
  • To raise awareness about hepatitis among African born populations
  • To provide screening, immunization, referral services for African immigrants and refugees
  • To increase hepatitis B screening and immunization rates for high risk African immigrants
  • To identify and reduce cultural and language barriers to immunization, screening, and treatment for liver diseases

Patient testimony

A Hep B Patient involved with African Services Committee provided his personal story of diagnosis and accessing care. He indicated that there is little attention to Hep B in his community; the concept of testing or engaging in medical services when asymptomatic is not common; and that there are concerns regarding stigma which may preclude disclosure of status to others, as well as community support for positive cases and education. He indicated that some families may be aware of a family history of liver disease or liver cancer, which could help to encourage patients to agree to Hepatitis testing.

Hep B & C BasicsScreening, Treatment, and Linkage to Care: Ponni Perumalswami MD, MSCR, Mount Sinai HONE Project

The Health of  African-born persons living in New York – Mekbib Gemeda, Assistant Dean for Diversity Affairs and Community Health, New York University School of Medicine

  • Provided history of the dynamics of African migration to the US and NYC as it relates to health
  • The Conferences of the Center for the Health of the African Diaspora.  Those interested in conference planning should contact Mekbib Gemeda  with areas of health interest (eg. Womens health, mental health, infectious diseases, etc…)
  • White Paper on African Immigration to the Bronx. REPORT BY DR JANE KANI EDWARD

Viral Hepatitis Among African-born persons in New York:

  • African Services Committee is now testing for Hepatitis B & C  Monday-Thursday through Mount Sinai’s HONE Project. To refer, contact: Alice Clomegah, Testing Center Coordinator – – (212) 222-3882
  • Provides: Outreach, health education, Hep B & C risk assessment & testing, ensuring vaccination, & medical escort
  • Results of Screening in African Community to Date – Demetri Blanas, MD – Mount Sinai HONE Project & African Services Committee(

Viral Hepatitis & Health Outreach Among African-born persons in New York:

  • Discussed challenges of providing risk assessment, screening and patient navigation to clients. Obstacles identified include: patients not feeling sick, concerns about what will happen to patient at medical center, concerns about medical experimentation, concerns about why the ‘officials’ are not stopping the disease. Partner notification is significant challenge due to stigma. Patient navigation is labor intensive and support/funding is needed to ensure linkage to proper care.
  • Amegnona Ekon, NYC HIV African Project  – NYC Department of Health, Harlem District Public Health Office –
  • Provided info prior to the meeting on Harlem United’s French Outreach program. Highlighted literacy, language and religious barriers to receiving hepatitis related health information or prevention tools.


  • Currently the NYC Hep B & C Coalitions are working with them to integrate Hep B & C into their health outreach messages, and sounds like it might be a good match for this coalition. If you would like to be involved, contact:


Suggestions mentioned

  • Conduct Needs Assessment
  • Incorporating oral tradition, the community story, words of wisdom, and community leaders into outreach & awareness strategy
  • Outreach in hair/braiding salons & faith based institutions
  • Looking at family history of liver disease or liver cancer in order to identify people who should be screened

Next steps: Open discussion. Moderator: Demetri Blanas, MD

  • Leader volunteered: Yahuza Siba, MD – Harlem Hospital – (
  • Will conduct regular subcommittee meetings (monthly)
  • Priorities:
  • Advocacy
  • Determining Strategy for increasing awareness
  • Developing culturally specific outreach & education materials
  • Ensuring representation in existing opportunities
  • Response to regular advocacy alerts
  • Participation in HBV & HCV Coalition Meetings

Next Meeting: In approximately 1 month. Please look out for meeting announcement

In Attendance:



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