Unprotected People Reports: Hepatitis B
Testimony Before the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
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|The Immunization Action Coalition (IAC)
publishes articles about people who have suffered or died from
vaccine-preventable diseases and periodically devotes an IAC Express issue
to such articles. This is the 69th in our series.
|In the space of three years, college junior Leslie D. Hsu lost her brother
and mother to hepatitis B-related liver cancer. Ms. Hsu's mother, an Asian
immigrant, was unaware that her family's ethnicity put them at high risk for
contracting HBV infection. She and her family were not tested for HBV until
her 18-year-old son received his liver cancer diagnosis. In 2003, Ms. Hsu
recounted her family's experience with HBV infection in her testimony before
the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific
Islanders. A portion of her testimony is reprinted below, with her kind
May 7, 2003
|Statement by Leslie D. Hsu, Northeast Regional Director of the National
Taskforce on Hepatitis B Immunizations: Focus on Asian Americans and Pacific
Islanders; cofounder of the Hepatitis B Initiative; and chair of the
Healthfinder steering committee at the Office of Disease Prevention and
Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Good afternoon. Honorable chairman and commissioners, thank you for inviting
me to participate in this hearing. My name is Leslie Hsu. I sit before you
today wearing several hats. My full-time job is with the Office of Disease
Prevention and Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services, where I am the chair of the Healthfinder steering committee and
lead on special population sections. On a volunteer basis, I am the
northeast regional director on the National Taskforce on Hepatitis B
Immunizations: Focus on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and cofounder
of the Hepatitis B Initiative.
John has asked me to brief you on activities that I am involved in with all
three of these organizations. I will begin with my personal story that will
shed some light upon the issue of hepatitis B and the importance of
improving the delivery of health information to Asian Americans, Native
Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders.
My story is only one of many that demonstrate how greatly hepatitis B
affects Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
My parents came to the United States to pursue their graduate studies. My
mother was a talented artist and journalist. My father is an engineer. As
you can imagine, they were complete opposites, but they had one thing in
common, their love for children. They provided my brother and me with
everything--love, religion, health care, education.
Perhaps my parents were so protective because we nearly lost my brother when
he was born. My mother had to find a gravesite for him twice. [Because of]
birth complications, he was on a respirator for the first two years of his
life. He was named a "miracle" baby when he survived. Although he had
asthma, he was otherwise a happy, healthy child who loved to take care of
his sister and tease her. I use to wake up in the morning with a note pinned
to my pillow from my brother telling me what the weather was going to be
like for the day, so I would know what to wear.
His near-death experience made my family very close. Mom wouldn't travel
anywhere without us. She insisted that every summer, we take road trips to
national parks. It was there in the wilderness that mother taught us how to
appreciate nature, love the Lord, and live life to its fullest.
One day without warning, my brother, who was 18, woke up with severe pain in
his abdomen. When we took him to the doctor, we were told that he and my
mother were hepatitis B carriers. My brother passed away a year later. One
month after his death, my mother was diagnosed with liver cancer. I lost her
the following year. I was a junior in college. In three short years, I lost
everything because of hepatitis B.
I share this story with you not to scare you. This all happened ten years
ago, and treatment for hepatitis B carriers has dramatically improved. The
main point of my story is how important it is to get screened and vaccinated
for hepatitis B at an early age. All of this could have been avoided had we
known how greatly hepatitis B impacts Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Health professionals and the public will find the following resources useful
for educating themselves about how important hepatitis B screening is for
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
|12/9/04 • REPORT #69
|Disclaimer: The Immunization Action Coalition (IAC) publishes
Unprotected People Reports for the purpose of making them available
for our readers' review. We have not verified the content of this