IMMEDIATE TREATMENT FOR HEP C FOR POLITICAL PRISONER MUMIA ABU-JAMAL
& 10,000 PA PRISONERS
“In 1199 we believe that quality health care is a human right for every person in this country, and it should not be determined by your income, your zip code, or whether or not you are an imprisoned person,” said Estela Vasquez, executive vice president of Local 1199 SEIU, United Healthcare Workers East, which is hosting the press conference. “We demand immediate treatment for Mumia Abu-Jamal. We cannot allow the authorities of the state of Pennsylvania to continue to deny him lifesaving medical treatment.”
Mumia Abu-Jamal, an internationally renowned political prisoner who Amnesty International and other human rights organizations say was unfairly convicted in the 1982 killing of a Philadelphia policeman, has been severely ill with symptoms of active hepatitis C for at least the last six months. If left untreated, hep C can lead to diabetes, heart disease, liver failure and even death. New direct-acting, anti-viral medications for hep C exist with a 95 percent cure rate. Endorsed by the American Liver Foundation, these treatment protocols were adopted by the Federal Bureau of Prisons in June, ensuring immediate treatment for all federal prisoners with active hep C symptoms.
Abu-Jamal is not alone. There are an estimated 10,000 PA Department of Corrections (DOC) inmates, many of whom are over 60 years old, who have the hep C virus. A 1997 study estimated that 29 to 43 percent of all people infected with hep C passed through a correctional facility. Called a “silent epidemic,” HCV has a disproportionate impact on impoverished communities and people of color. While African Americans comprise about 13 percent of the U.S. population, they represent 25 percent of all hep C cases. For African Americans ages 45 to 65 years old, hep-C-related chronic liver disease is the leading cause of death.
But the state of Pennsylvania has repeatedly denied lifesaving treatment for Abu-Jamal and the other prisoners. According to Dr. Joseph Harris, an expert in hep C who reviewed Abu-Jamal’s medical records and examined him, “Failure to treat Mr. Abu-Jamal’s hepatitis C will result in serious harm to his health, as his current extra-hepatic symptoms will not be cured, and he faces an increasingly serious risk of suffering from fibrosis and cirrhosis, liver cancer, complications of his diabetes, and eventual death.” Dr. Harris’s statement is part of a 10-page affidavit submitted to a federal Pennsylvania court in August demanding immediate treatment for Abu-Jamal. (A summary of it will be passed out at the press conference, and is available upon request.)
It took extensive international protests beginning in March, when activists held sit-ins at the PA DOC, press conferences in the rotunda of the Harrisburg capitol and at SCI Mahanoy prison, and a daily deluge of phone calls from all over the world to three governmental officials that Abu-Jamal was transferred to a hospital in mid-May for extensive testing, which showed he had liver damage. Only now are the PA DOC and the PA Dept. of Health hammering out a protocol.
“The evidence is overwhelming that the suffering being experienced by Mumia is the result of hepatitis C,” said Robert J. Boyle, one of his lawyers. “The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections can cure him and many others by administering treatment. Their refusal to do so is a violation of the Constitution and basic human rights.”
~ Pam Africa, the fiery head of the International Concerned Family and Friends for Mumia Abu-Jamal since his arrest in 1981;
~ Estela Vasquez, an immigrant of Dominican descent and a leading activist in New York’s union movement;
~ Bob Boyle, who has a long history of defending political prisoners, with the notable success of winning, with co-counsel, the release of former Panther 21 member, Dhoruba Bin Wahad;
~ Baron Graham, a representative of the NYC Hep C Task Force;
and other community representatives.
Sponsored by the International Concerned Family and Friends for Mumia Abu-Jamal and the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal Coalition (NYC),freemumia.com; International Action Center, iacenter.org.
ALL ARE INVITED TO ATTEND!