Hepatitis B in African Communities
Because hepatitis B is more common among African communities in the U.S., it is important that people who were born in Africa, or whose parents were born in Africa, be tested for hepatitis B infection. Hepatitis B is a silent disease, and most people feel well when they are infected, even when the virus is damaging the liver. The CDC has a quick and simple risk assessment that you can take to help you figure out whether you need hepatitis B testing.
Getting Tested for Hepatitis B
What is involved in the test? A simple blood test can tell you if you have a hepatitis B infection. The blood test involves taking a tube of blood, and results are usually available within a few days. The blood test will usually tell you if you have a hepatitis B infection, if you are protected against a hepatitis B infection, or if you need the hepatitis B vaccine. The Hepatitis B Foundation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have easy to understand, detailed information on how to interpret the hepatitis B blood test.
Where can someone get tested? Hepatitis B tests can be done at a health care provider office or clinic. If you have a primary care provider, you can call to ask about hepatitis B testing. If you do not have health insurance, you might be able to get tested at a Federally Qualified Health Center or free clinic near you. There are also many community groups around the U.S. who offer free hepatitis B testing.
Is hepatitis B testing covered under health insurance? Hepatitis B screening among high risk adults is a covered benefit as per the United States Preventive Services Task Force. This means that health insurance providers should cover testing if you fall into a high risk group. Please talk to your doctor or your health insurance provider about your individual situation.
What can someone do if they test positive for hepatitis B infection? If you are infected with hepatitis B, the most important thing you can do is follow up with a physician on a regular basis. A physician will want to check the health of your liver, talk to you about any lifestyle changes, and talk to you about possible treatment options. If your primary care doctor manages hepatitis B patients, you can continue to see him/her about your hepatitis B infection. However, you might be referred to a liver specialist (hepatologist) or gastroenterologist. If you need help finding a specialist, visit the Hepatitis B Foundation Specialist Directory. If you test positive for hepatitis B, it is also important to have your close family and household members, and sexual partners tested and then vaccinated as necessary. There are also lifestyle changes you can make to keep your liver healthy!
Should someone be tested for hepatitis B if they are pregnant? Yes, all pregnant women in the U.S. should be tested for hepatitis B, since the virus can be passed on from mother to child during the childbirth process (perinatal transmission). There are procedures in place that can prevent a baby born to an infected mother from getting hepatitis B. Please talk to your doctor if you are pregnant about getting tested for hepatitis B. You can also contact your state’s hepatitis B perinatal prevention coordinator.