May is Hepatitis Awareness Month
May is Hepatitis Awareness Month in the United States and Hepatitis Testing Day is observed on May 19th. During May, we work to shed light on the impact these hidden epidemics have on our communities. We do this by raising awareness and encouraging testing and vaccination.
Viral Hepatitis Key Facts
- There are several different viruses that can cause hepatitis. The most common types are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
- Some hepatitis infections are short-term and clear up on their own. Others can become long-term and need ongoing medical care.
- Long-term hepatitis B and C are leading causes of liver cancer in the U.S.
- Both hepatitis A and B are preventable through safe and effective vaccines.
- Hepatitis C can be cured with a prescribed treatment.
- CDC recommends all adults up to age 60 get vaccinated against hepatitis A and B. Those 60+ should get vaccinated if they have certain risk factors. If you are 60+ and do not have risk factors, you may choose to be vaccinated or not.
- More than 65% of people that have hepatitis B are unaware of their infection.
- About 40% of people living with hepatitis C are unaware of their infection.
- CDC recommends all adults get tested for hepatitis B and hepatitis C at least once in their lifetime. CDC recommends testing for hepatitis B and C during each pregnancy. Getting tested is the only way to know if you have hepatitis B or C.
Learn more about viral hepatitis by visiting our website. You can also find locations near you that provide free or low-cost vaccination or testing services by using our directory.
If you or a loved one has more specific questions about viral hepatitis, we have hotline counselors are ready to help. Call toll-free today at (800) 533-4148. The hotline operates Monday -Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Medicaid: The Return to Normal
Starting in March 2023, Virginia will begin reviewing members’ eligibility for health coverage to make sure they still qualify. Terminations will not occur prior to April 30, 2023. They may be able to renew your case without asking you for anything, and if so, you will receive a letter in the mail letting you know your health care coverage will continue. If they do not have all information necessary to renew your benefits, they will send you a form or a checklist to complete and return by a certain date. Please make sure Cover Virginia has your updated contact information so they can reach you. Members who do not complete the renewal form will not be eligible to keep their Medicaid health coverage. Members can complete their renewal form/ checklist by:
- Submitting the completed form/documents online at commonhelp.virginia.gov using the case number and client ID on your form to associate your case to your account.
- Calling Cover Virginia at 1-855-242-8282 (TTY: 1-888-221-1590) to submit your renewal information. Have the requested information gathered and ready to give over the phone.
- Mailing the completed form/documents to the address listed on the form or checklist by the due date. A prepaid return envelope will be provided to you, or you can turn in the form/documents by fax or in person at your local Department of Social Services.
For questions, additional help, or language assistance services or large-print, call Cover Virginia at 1-855-242-8282 (TTY: 1-888-221-1590) or email email@example.com.
Mpox Update: Preventing Another Outbreak
Nearly a year ago mpox was a hot health topic in the news and in some communities. Mpox particularly affected the LGBTQ+ community. Today, however, VDH data from late March shows that our state has averaged 0 to 2 cases per week since November 2022.
So you may ask yourselves, “why should I think about getting vaccinated." You could also ask, “why would I go back for the second vaccination?” Currently, only 1 in 4 of those at risk for mpox has been fully vaccinated. A recent CDC report says without continued vaccination efforts another resurgence of mpox is likely over time.
We need your help to prevent future outbreaks of mpox. If you are sexually active and have not received a first or second dose of vaccine, find out about the vaccine recommendations. If you do not qualify for the vaccine, please review the basics of mpox and how to prevent it.
To learn more about:
- mpox general info,
- vaccination recommendations, and
- to find an mpox vaccination site near you, visit
the VDH mpox webpage at www.vdh.virginia.gov/mpox.
STI Awareness Week
Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Awareness Week is April 9th through 15th each year. During this week we take the time to raise awareness about STIs, and how they impact our lives. This reduces STI-related stigma, fear, and discrimination. It ensures that people have the tools and information to prevent, test, and treat.
STIs have become more common, and rates are increasing. One in five people in the United States have an STI. Virginia, and the rest of the U.S., has seen a sharp increase in cases of mothers passing syphilis to their children during pregnancy.
Many people may be unaware that they have an STI. Having an STI does not mean that you will always have symptoms. It is important to talk to your sexual partners about your health and engage in safer sex behaviors, such as using condoms correctly and consistently. Talk to your partners about protecting yourselves from STIs before you have sex. Make STI testing a part of your routine healthcare. If you do find out that you have an STI, it is important that you start and complete the treatment prescribed. Protect yourself and your loved ones with three easy steps: talk, test, treat.
Find a location near you that provides free or low-cost STI testing using Resource Connections. You can find more information about common STIs on our STI page. You can also call the Virginia Disease Prevention Hotline to talk to a counselor at (800) 533-4148. Counselors are ready to answer any questions you may have or connect you to services you may need.
World AIDS Day
World AIDS Day is December 1 of every year. On this day, we show support for people living with HIV and we remember those we lost in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We also strengthen our resolve to end HIV.
The 2022 theme for World AIDS Day is “Putting Ourselves to the Test: Achieving Equity to End HIV.” Many still experience inequalities when accessing basic health services. Not everyone has the same opportunity for HIV testing, treatment, and even condoms. This is even truer for newer technologies, such as HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP for HIV is medicine given that prevents HIV.
We identified the first cases of HIV more than 40 years ago. Yet, there are many who do not know basic facts about HIV. Many do not know how to protect themselves and others from HIV. Stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many living with HIV.
World AIDS Day is important because we must always remind each other that HIV has not gone away. We must increase awareness, fight prejudice and stigma, and improve education.
What Can I Do?
There are many events occurring nationally for World AIDS Day. If you are looking to register an event to the public or looking to attend an event, please visit www.worldaidsday.org/events/.
Additionally, the website includes a memorial space where you can create a tribute to a loved one: www.worldaidsday.org/memorials/.
Find and share resources from national campaigns on your social media:
Visit a local community-based organization and volunteer your services. Wear a red ribbon proudly while helping them. To find a local organization that provides HIV services, visit Resource Connections, or call the Virginia Disease Prevention Hotline at (800) 533-4148.
What about the rest of the year?
World AIDS Day is just one day of the year. The other 364 days of the year are as important in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
We must always combat inequalities and stigma. Share information for awareness and educational purposes. Volunteer at local agencies that may need help. Continue to help in the fight against HIV so we can live in a world where HIV is a thing of the past.
If you have questions or need help for yourself or a loved one, call the Virginia Disease Prevention Hotline. You can reach a counselor toll free at (800) 533-4148. The Hotline operates Monday through Friday from 8am until 5pm. They are closed for Virginia state holidays.
This page includes links to external websites. These links are provided to give information and resources. VDH DDP providing these links does not constitute an endorsement of other organization’s fundraising efforts, nor their request for donations.
Pharmacy Testing Program Update
Effective immediately, Walgreens pharmacies will no longer provide HIV and hepatitis c testing services on behalf of VDH. We apologize for any inconvenience that this causes to members of the public that have regularly taken advantage of this program prior to its pause during COVID-19.
While we work to establish new pharmacy testing options, please visit our pharmacy testing page for updates on the program and to find alternative methods for your testing needs.
The first long-acting injectable that prevents HIV has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
On Dec. 20, 2021, the FDA approved Apretude® (cabotegravir), a new injectable PrEP medication for adults and adolescents - 15 years old or older - weighing at least 77 pounds and who are at risk of getting HIV through sexual activity. PrEP stands for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis and cabotegravir is the latest medication to receive FDA approval for HIV prevention. All of the other options have been oral tablets that must be taken daily; cabotegravir is an injection given every two months. In approving the new medication, the FDA noted that an injectable could make it easier for patients to stay on the medication as prescribed, a key factor in the effectiveness of PrEP as an HIV prevention strategy. For more information, visit the press release from the FDA.
Know Your Sexual Health
The number of sexual transmitted disease (STD) cases are at an all-time high. In fact, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 2 people will get a STD before the age of 25. Most people who get STDs don’t know that they have them. That’s because STDs often have no obvious signs or symptoms. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are common STDs that can cause these serious health problems:
- Increased risk of giving or getting HIV
- Long-term pelvic and/or abdominal pain
- Inability to get pregnant or pregnancy complications
- Health problems for newborn babies if moms are not treated adequately
The only way to know if you have an STD is to get tested. Learn more about testing, including where to go, here. STDs are curable or manageable with the right treatment. Not all doctors will ask you about your sexual activity or need for STD testing. Don’t be afraid to ask your medical provider for STD testing!
Here are some ways you can prevent STDs:
- Use condoms – correct and consistent use of the male latex condom is highly effective in reducing the transmission of many STDs. Learn the right way to use condoms and dental dams here. Female condoms are available, too!
- Get vaccinated – safe and effective vaccines exist to prevent hepatitis B and human papillomavirus (HPV). These infections can be transmitted through sex.
- Reduce your number of sex partners – reducing the number of people you have sex with can decrease your risk of STDs. It is still important for you and your partner to get tested and share your results with one another.
- Practice mutual monogamy – mutual monogamy means that you agree to be sexually active with only one person, who has also agreed to be sexually active only with you. It is important to make sure that you are both tested and treated for STDs early on.
- Abstinence – not having sex is the most reliable way to avoid STDs. This includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
Last Updated: May 10, 2023