A town hall forum was held to discuss the importance of Hepatitis C and to urge people to get tested immediately at The Sanctuary at Kingdom Square in Capitol Heights, Md. July 29. Hepatitis C has been an ongoing problem in the United States since the mid-1940s.

“The main purpose of this event is to really get the word out and educate primarily baby boomers,” Dr. Pernessa C. Seele, Founder/CEO ofThe Balm in Gilead told the AFRO.

The Balmin Gilead,a non-profit organization whose mission is to improve the health of theAfrican Diaspora by building the capacity of faith communities to address life-threatening diseases, was one of the main contributors for putting this event together.

Today there are 3.2 million Americans that have this blood-borne virus, 75 percent not knowing they are infected, and 106,000 of those Americans coming out of Maryland.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will double, even triple, inthe next (CDC), baby boomers – individuals born between 1945 and 1965 – are most at-risk for hepatitis C.

The disease is also more common amongst African Americans than any other racial group. Within the African American community, chronic liver disease, which is often Hepatitis C-related, is a leading cause of death among people between the ages of 45 and 64.

The CDC predicts that deaths from Hepatitis C will double, even triple, in the next 20 years. The CDC, along with the U.S. Preventatives Task Force (USPSTF,) both recommend one-time screening of Americans born between 1945 and 1965, with testing being covered by insurance plans and Medicare.

Speakers, including community and state leaders shared their thoughts on Hepatitis C prevention. Marnitta King, the mayor of Capitol Heights, who was elected in May, told the audience about the Healthy Heights Initiative.

“We ride bikes with the chief of police, run a mile with the mayor and much more things to stay healthy,” King said.

Deputy Office Director for the Office of Infectious Disease Prevention and Care Services Ravinia Hayes-
Cozier told the crowd, “Think of it like this. Every time I mention involvement in associations and organizations, we can make a difference.”

Six-time Stellar Award winner and Grammy award nonominated recording artist VaShawn Mitchell was also in attendance, and performed two songs.

The crowd jumped to their feet and sang, shouted, clapped and danced as Mitchell filled the sanctuary with his upbeat music.

“A role model to young people and that it is part of his calling,” he said.