Group Spreads Awareness About Hep B Virus

In an effort to draw attention to the prevalence and danger of Hepatitis B, the Hepatitis B Virus Team has launched a week-long awareness campaign that includes jade-colored cupcakes, make-your-own plushie toys, and a forum discussion.

"Hepatitis B is a really important disease worldwide affecting 350 million people, and one in four of those affected will develop liver cancer or another liver disease,” said Carol Tran ’14, co-vice president of community outreach for the HBV Team. “The problem is that it is asymptomatic, so if you have the virus, you will not feel any pain. It’s really important for people to get their blood screened.”

The HBV Team organized Harvard’s Hepatitis B Awareness Week in the hopes that students might take steps to prevent or identify Hepatitis B, a virus that infects the liver.

“Our short term goal is to make people more aware. A lack of knowledge is the reason people get this disease,” President David D. Yang ’13 said. “This is a disease that affects millions each year, yet people don’t talk about it.”

The HBV Team lined up a series of activities throughout the course of the week. On Monday, Annenberg and other dining halls served cupcakes with jade-colored frosting—a nod to the Jade Ribbon Campaign, which seeks to spread awareness about the virus.“

It got people talking, I think. I thought it was pretty good,” said Jean J. Shiao ’13, vice president of political advocacy for the HBV Team.

On Thursday, the HBV Team will host an event where students can make their own HBV plushie toys while snacking on ice cream sundaes and listening to music.“

It will be a fun event where students can engage in something for a good cause. We’ll provide all the kits and materials,” said Matthew G. Yung ’13, the HBV Team’s other co-vice president of community outreach.

The week will culminate on Saturday with the Jade Forum, which will feature a number of speakers and discussions. Students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other groups that helped to organize the event will also participate.

Representatives from the Massachusetts State Department will discuss public health approaches to tackling Hepatitis B  at the Forum, according to Shiao.

The HBV Team hopes to become “more integrated...on campus in future years,” Shiao said. But for now the group has focused its efforts on spreading awareness that Hepatitis B is a “totally preventable” silent killer, according to Yang.

“Our long term goal with HBV and other focus groups is to eradicate the disease. It shouldn’t exist because we have vaccines and people should know their status [whether or not they are a carrier],” Yang said.

—Staff writer Laya Anasu can be reached at layaanasu@college.harvard.edu.

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