Department of Health Urges Screenings for HIV and Hepatitis B and C

Viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer, which is the second largest form of cancer that leads to deaths. Worldwide, viral hepatitis kills 1.5 million people each year.

Many immigrants to Hawaii who were born in Asia and the Pacific Islands (excluding Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii), where hepatitis B is common, are especially vulnerable.  Unfortunately, many may not recognize the signs or symptoms of hepatitis.

The good news: viral hepatitis can be prevented and those with disease can be treated. More good news: most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover the entire costs of one-time tests for the disease.

World Hepatitis Day 2014

World Hepatitis Day – The Hawaii Department of Health is drawing attention to this health issue and the importance of screenings for early detection as part of World Hepatitis Day on July 28, 2014. World Hepatitis Day on July 28, 2014. This day has also been designated Hawaii Hepatitis Day by Governor Neil Abercrombie’s Office.

“We’re urging Hawaii’s healthcare providers to screen their patients and encouraging Hawaii residents to request screenings because many people with HIV and most people with hepatitis B or C don’t know that they have been infected,” said Peter Whiticar, chief of the STD AIDS Prevention Branch in the Hawaii Department of Health.

“If undetected, these infections can lead to serious health complications, including liver cancer or even death. Today, more effective HIV and hepatitis treatments are available, and people have better options to take care of themselves before they become ill. The earlier people know they have HIV or hepatitis, the better their health outcome.”

Aligned with National, Evidence-Based Recommendations – The Hawaii Department of Health’s urgent request aligns with recommendations by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which is an independent, volunteer panel of physicians in the fields of preventive medicine and primary care. This past May, the task force recommended a one-time screening for hepatitis B for anyone born in countries where hepatitis B is common, including most of Asia and the Pacific.

In addition to the hepatitis B screenings, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends screenings for HIV for everyone 15 to 65 years of age as well as a one-time hepatitis C screening test for baby boomers born between 1945 and 1965.

It is important to note that these one-time screening test recommendations are for individuals without risk factors or evidence of infection. Patients with risk factors or medical evidence of infection should be tested more frequently.

Early Detection is Critical – “By identifying and treating these diseases early, we hope this improves patient and community health outcomes, especially since most persons at risk for HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C are not regularly screened,” Whiticar said.

“If your loved ones might be at risk, they can speak with their medical provider to discuss appropriate testing options. We also encourage medical providers to reach out to us to learn more about these recommendations.  Providing these simple tests now can mean that they can have their patients avoid liver disease or even liver cancer later,” he said.

Insurance Coverage – Individuals with medical insurance can go to their primary care physician to request a test for HIV, hepatitis B and/or C. Individuals without insurance can call Aloha United Way 211 or go to www.hepfreehawaii.org to find the free HIV and hepatitis screening location nearest them. Not all sites will offer hepatitis B testing. Testing will be based on eligibility and availability at each site.

For more information about hepatitis resources and events in Hawaii, go to www.hepfreehawaii.org.

Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce Participates in “Hawaii on the Hill” Initiative

The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce participated in the first-ever Hawaii on the Hill initiative July 22 and 23 at the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. Co-chaired by Senator Mazie Hirono and the rest of the Hawaii delegation, this event highlighted the State’s businesses, food and culture on Capitol Hill. The two-day affair included a Hawaii Policy Summit, tours of the White House and Capitol, and concluded with a “Taste of Hawaii” reception with over 700 invited guests experiencing the sights, sounds and tastes of Hawaii.

Colette Masunaga prepares to greet attendees at the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce and County of Hawaii product table at “Taste of Hawaii.”

Colette Masunaga prepares to greet attendees at the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce and County of Hawaii product table at “Taste of Hawaii.”

Over 30 Hawaii businesses and organizations were welcomed on the “Hill.” Hawaii Policy Summit discussions included Senator Charles Schumer of New York, Senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, Director Patricia Loui with the Export-Import Bank of the U.S., Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel, U.S. Trade and Development Agency Director for Export Promotion Leila Aridi Afas, and Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs Margaret Cummisky. Hawaii attendees were able to share issues and concerns, as well as promote Hawaii as a place to do business.

Senator Hirono asked the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii to spearhead this event, with neighbor island chambers and statewide industry associations invited to participate. The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce, the County of Hawaii and Tiki Shark Art represented the Island of Hawaii in Washington, D.C. Products offered at the KKCC/County table for the “Taste of Hawaii” reception included ohia lehua honey from The Big Island Bee Company, Spirolina and BioAstin samples from Cyanotech, over 600 anthuriums from Green Point Nursery, chocolate samples from Kona Mountain Coffee Company, and macadamia nuts from Mauna Loa. Tiki Shark Art shared their unique, local Hawaiian style art designs and beach apparel by Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker.

Brad holding his original art piece "Forbidden Island".

Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker holding his original art piece “Forbidden Island”.

The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce provides leadership and advocacy for a successful business environment in West Hawai‘i. The result of KKCC’s work is a community of choice as reflected in our quality of life, business and individual opportunity and manifest respect for our culture and our natural resources. For info, 329-1758 or visit kona-kohala.com.

Search Continues for Man Who Went Missing During Plane Crash Near America Samoa

Coast Guard and local agencies are searching for a man who went missing during a plane crash approximately one mile from Pago Pago Tuesday night.

This is the search area developed by watchstanders at the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu using the Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System. We are currently searching for a man who went missing during a plane crash off American Samoa July 22, 2014. Watchstanders at the JRCC use SAROPS to develop the best search area for missing passenger Babar Suleman. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo)

This is the search area developed by watchstanders at the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu using the Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System. We are currently searching for a man who went missing during a plane crash off American Samoa July 22, 2014. Watchstanders at the JRCC use SAROPS to develop the best search area for missing passenger Babar Suleman. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo)

Search efforts for 58-year-old Babar Suleman continued throughout the day and suspended Wednesday night due to decreased visibility. The search resumed Thursday morning and will continue throughout the day.

The Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Honolulu is currently coordinating search efforts with the HC-130 Hercules airplane crew from Air Station Barbers Point, the American Samoa Marine Patrol, American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, a Coast Guard Auxiliary vessel and good Samaritan Tug Lillie.

American Samoa is currently under small craft and high surf advisories. Weather conditions will continue to be closely monitored.

Debris recovered from the crash includes sections of the fuselage and interior components of the plane.

Watchstanders are using the Search and Rescue Optimal Planning System to determine the search area. The Hercules crew dropped a Self-locating Data Marker Buoy to calculate current drift, water temperature and sea conditions. That information is then used in the SAROPS to better ascertain the optimal search area.

At 9:55 p.m. Tuesday, Coast Guard watchstanders at the JRCC received notification from the Regional Command Center in New Zealand that a Beechcraft Bonanza with two passengers aboard crashed into the water approximately one mile from shore. The RCC in New Zealand attained that information from the plane’s Emergency Locator Transmitter.

The Hercules crew departed Honolulu at 2:38 a.m. Wednesday and arrived at the crash site approximately eight hours later.

Wednesday’s total search area consisted of 275 nautical square miles. Thursday’s projected search area consists of 1,027 nautical square miles.

Tahiti Fete of Hilo Returns to the Big Island

The drums will be pounding and hips will again be gyrating as the Tahiti Fete of Hilo returns to Hawaii Island on Saturday and Sunday July 26 and 27, thanks to founding producer Pua Tokumoto. “The last year we did it in Hilo was 2008 and so many performers and audience members kept asking us to bring it back, I just decided we’d try again,” said Tokumoto.

tahitiTahitian halau and individual performers are invited to sign up for the dance competition for this year’s event that takes place at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium. Several halau have already signed up from around Hawaii, the mainland and Mexico with a few inquiries from Japan so residency in Hawaii is not mandatory. “We have fantastic prizes that attract very high quality performers,” said Tokumoto.

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At the fete, it isn’t all about the dancers and drummers. To help create the right festival atmosphere, arts, crafts, food and product vendors are also being sought.

With over two decades of producing the much larger Tahiti Fete of San Jose (largest of its kind in the US), Tokumoto brought the fete to Hilo in 2000, where she and award-winning steel guitarist husband Dwight Tokumoto call home. “There is such a wide interest in and connection to Tahitian culture in Hawaii, it was a natural to start a fete here,” she said. “Actually Tahitian culture is global and since we started the Hilo fete, we established a smaller No Te Here i Tahiti Mexico in Mexico City that includes workshops on ori (Tahitian dance) and hula” as well as a mini-fete.

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Sponsors are being sought to help to keep ticket prices reasonable and insure quality prizes while providing experiential marketing opportunities for corporations and businesses. Benefits of sponsorship include branding in advertising materials, logo placement in the program and VIP seating at the fete, among others. For general information go to FACEBOOK: Tahiti Fete of San Jose & Hilo or to www.tahitifete.com. For more sponsor or vendor information or to sign up for the dance competition, contact Pua at 935-3002 or pua@tahitifete.com.