Rep. Seeking GAO Probe of Hepatitis C June
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 06/20/03 Rep. Jackson Lee Praised for Seeking GAO Probe of
A grass roots Hepatitis C advocacy group is praising United
States Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, for seeking
a General Accounting Office investigation of the deadly Hepatitis
C virus in the United States.
Hepatitis C is now four times more prevalent than HIV/AIDS
and has infected up to 5 million Americans. It is estimated
that between 10,000 and 12,000 Americans will die this year
from complications of the blood borne virus. HCV is the major
reason for liver transplants in the United States.
Jackson Lee asked Comptroller General David Walker for a
General Accounting Office investigation of the virus in a
June 18 letter. She sought the investigation after weeks
of consultation with leaders of the Hepatitis C Movement for
Awareness (HMA), a nationwide organization of grass roots
"HCV patients have much to celebrate today," said
Tricia Lupole, national coordinator for HMA, "For the
first time, HCV will be looked at as a whole disease.
Nothing could prove more beneficial to HCV patients. We
cannot thank Congresswoman Jackson Lee and her staff for seeing
the needs of the HCV community."
Lupole says she hopes the investigation will help answer
several questions concerning Hepatitis C, especially whether
it is a sexually transmitted disease.
The National bill S-1143 is sponsored by Texas Republican
Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison and Massachusetts Democrat Senator
Among other things, Lee is asking the GAO to determine whether
Hepatitis C is actually a sexually transmitted disease. She
is also asking the investigative arm of congress to look into
the high rate of infection among prison inmates.
Prisons were declared in "epidemic status" since
the sixties. "Prisons, juvenal detention home and
mental hospitals contribute significantly to the spread of
HCV", Lupole continues; "If we want to stop the
spread this virus, we must stop the spread of HCV in these
institutions. Or, at the very least, tell the people
they have the infection before they are released."
Ed Wendt, the Texas coordinator for HMA and a liver transplant
recipient, says HMA also wants language in S-1143 to require
"annual audits and strict background checks" of
groups and organizations, especially 501c3 tax exempt groups,
that receive grants and funding from the Act.
"I hope the GAO report will help congress adopt the
necessary amendments to S-1143 so it will be acceptable,"
Wendt says. "Representative Lee's letter speaks for itself."
Lupole called Jackson Lee's letter to the Comptroller General
"a truly great day for the 5 million Americans suffering
from this disease." She said it should help veterans
who contracted the virus while on active duty, get "badly
needed service connected disability payments."
Said Lupole: "For the first time, issues concerning
veterans and HCV infections will be addressed. The Veterans
Administration deny accountability for the 10+% of veterans
infected based on the CDC statement that war is not a risk
factor for HCV. Hopefully the GAO will dig deep and
see how infected veterans are and the numerous transmission
methods that existed before universal precautions were in
Excerpt from Jackson Lees letter to the Comptroller General.
In order to design an appropriate strategy for stopping
the spread of HCV, we in Congress will need accurate
and reliable information about this insidious virus,
and its impact on American society. I understand
that there is considerable controversy and confusion
even in the HCV field, regarding how the virus is spread,
and how best to stop it from spreading further. It
also seems that certain populations, such as Veterans,
the incarcerated, and minorities, may be being disproportionately
hit by this virus, or missed by public health efforts.
This suggests that in the future, we may need
to tailor public health policies to specifically target
these at risk populations. Again, addressing these
issues properly will depend on accurate and reliable
Please prepare a GAO report on HCV in the United States,
" The history of HCV in the United
States; " The prevalence of HCV in the
general population today; " Populations that have been impacted
disproportionately, including the incarcerated; " Recommendations for improving
diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of such populations
and others; " How the virus is spread, including
whether HCV should be considered as a sexually transmitted
disease; " Whether it is appropriate to
group HCV with HIV for research, prevention, and treatment
purposes; " The extent to which those at
risk for infection through receiving contaminated blood
products in the past have been identified and notified;
" Whether HCV infection should
be considered a service-connected disability for Veterans;
" Diseases associated with or
exacerbated by HCV infection; " Appropriate methods and timing
for HCV treatment; " Best practices for education
and prevention programs; " The adequacy of federal programs-including
those at the Centers for Disease Control, the Bureau
of Prisons, the National Institutes of Health, and the
Veterans Administration-for addressing the HCV epidemic.
Lupole adds, "Our goal is to stop the spread of HCV."
Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee and her colleagues understand