Merck (known as MSD outside the United States and Canada) has announced that three-time Grammy award-winning Cuban-American recording artist and songwriter Jon Secada is adding his voice to the Tune In to Hep C public health campaign to help raise awareness of chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection.
Secada revealed for the first time today that his father recently passed away from complications associated with chronic HCV infection, a disease that disproportionately affects the Hispanic community. He hopes that sharing his family’s personal experience through this bilingual awareness campaign will activate Hispanic Americans with chronic HCV to take action and speak to their doctors about their options.
Secada joins Merck, the American Liver Foundation (ALF) and fellow Grammy winners Gregg Allman of The Allman Brothers Band and Natalie Cole on the Tune In to Hep C initiative, which Merck and ALF launched last year.
Chronic HCV is a viral infection of the liver that is potentially serious and can damage the liver over time and lead to cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease and liver cancer. Of the approximately 3.2 million Americans who have chronic HCV, an estimated one million are Hispanic. Research has shown that complications due to chronic HCV develop more quickly and result in more health issues in Hispanics when compared to other ethnic groups, especially considering many people infected with chronic HCV, Hispanic or non-Hispanic, do not know that they have the virus – approximately 70 to 80 percent of people newly infected with the virus do not have symptoms.
“My father chose not to tell anyone about his disease for a long time, and he chose not to take action against it for reasons I may never understand. Before he passed away, he told me that he wanted me to share his story to help other people like him who have chronic hepatitis C but aren’t taking action,” said Secada, who was unaware of his father’s diagnosis for more than a decade. “You can’t be silent with a silent disease that has consequences like chronic hepatitis C — you need to talk to your doctor and talk to your family. Take it from me, the people who love you want to be there to help you, and want you to be there for them.”
The American Liver Foundation partnered with Merck on the Tune In to Hep C campaign to help address barriers that can keep people from managing their disease, including lack of awareness and social stigma. The American Liver Foundation is a national organization advocating for those living with liver disease and their families, and provides education, support and research for the prevention, treatment and cure of liver disease.
“Chronic hepatitis C disproportionately affects the Hispanic community but, unfortunately, there is stigma and low awareness of the disease and its potential complications, so it is not widely discussed among Hispanics in the U.S.,” said Newton Guerin, president and chief executive officer, American Liver Foundation. “We hope Jon’s desire to turn his family’s loss into a positive message for those who face this disease will encourage them to take action.”
Information about chronic HCV in the Hispanic community, as well as exclusive video of Secada telling his personal story, can be found on www.HepatitisCTocaElTema.com, a Spanish- language website that launched today. Secada’s story, as well as Allman and Cole’s, also can be found on the campaign’s English website, www.TuneInToHepC.com.
“For more than 30 years, Merck has been committed to fighting chronic HCV. That commitment extends beyond science and is part of our overall mission to help people around the world be well,” said Mark Timney, president, Global Human Health – U.S. Market, Merck. “We believe Jon’s message is an important one that will motivate Hispanic Americans with hepatitis C to take action and speak with their doctors, and we applaud him for his efforts in this campaign.”