Philadelphia – Unless a mass movement can force Pennsylvania officials to provide antiviral hepatitis C medications to cure Mumia Abu-Jamal’s deadly liver disease, his health will continue to deteriorate and he will die. Concerned by his health crisis, supporters of this world-renowned political prisoner have called a mass mobilization on Dec. 9 in Philadelphia.
An international campaign prevented Mumia’s execution by the state. A renewed movement is needed now to save his life.
Friends and family members who have visited Mumia report his symptoms include diarrhea, scaly skin and difficulty sleeping. His skin itching has increased, despite medication and doctor-prescribed baths.
Mark Taylor, who visited Mumia on Oct. 9, noted: “There seem to be some signs of deterioration to Mumia’s health. He has not been monitored closely by prison medical personnel. … He has filed grievances about his conditions and we are working on getting Mumia’s own doctor in to see him as soon as possible.”
Mumia complained that besides refusing to treat him, the Department of Corrections is not monitoring him adequately, as recommended by Federal District Judge Robert Mariani on Aug. 31. By refusing to provide curative medications, the Pennsylvania DOC has sentenced Mumia and thousands of other state prisoners with this disease to death by deliberate indifference.
Judge Mariani ruled that the standard of care for chronic hep C is the administration of new antiviral medications, Harvoni or Sovaldi. He said the DOC’s hep C treatment protocol “prolongs the suffering” of the ill and allows the disease to quickly progress so it presents a greater threat of cirrhosis, liver cancer and death. This violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of “cruel and unusual” punishment.
However, Judge Mariani refused to order the state to treat Mumia because of a technicality: The DOC’s Hepatitis C Committee members were not specifically named in the lawsuit. Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center filed a lawsuit Sept. 30 seeking an injunction to provide Mumia with these hep C antiviral medications.
Access for all!
Less than 1 percent of U.S. prisoners are being treated for hep C, according to a Health Affairs article entitled “New Hepatitis C Drugs Are Very Costly and Unavailable to Many State Prisoners.” (tinyurl.com/gte27bc) Some 6,976 Pennsylvania prisoners had the illness last year. Only those with end-stage disease are allowed these medications. (tinyurl.com/jrqpb5a) Two dozen prisoners have been treated so far.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed the Hepatitis C Screening Act into law July 20. It requires all individuals born between 1945 and 1965 who receive health services in a medical facility or physician’s office to be offered a hep C screening test. The law became effective Sept. 18, but most health care providers have not implemented the unfunded mandate.
Over 53,000 Philadelphia residents have hep C, but Medicaid denies the new medications to half of all applicants. In May, the State Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee voted 10-7 to lift Medicaid rules restricting these medications, but State Secretary of Human Services Ted Dallas has not approved the recommendation.
Between 3 million and 6 million U.S. residents have hep C, but most people are unaware they have the disease, since it takes decades for symptoms to appear. In 2013, more U.S. residents died of hep C than from 59 other infectious diseases combined.
New drugs boast cure rates of 95 percent or better, but profit-hungry Gilead Sciences charges $83,000 to $95,000 for a single course of treatment, severely limiting access to the life-saving medications.
All out for Dec. 9!
The Dec. 9 march starts at 3 p.m. at the Frank Rizzo statue at 15th Street and JFK Boulevard, in solidarity with the #FrankRizzoDown campaign initiated by the REAL Justice Coalition. An indoor rally follows at 6 p.m.
Initial endorsers include the International Concerned Family & Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal; Wadiya Jamal; Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly; the Monica Moorehead/Lamont Lilly Workers World Party presidential campaign; Angela Davis; Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka, U.S. Green Party presidential and vice presidential candidates; the International Action Center; the Peoples Organization for Progress; MOVE Organization; the Philly Coalition for REAL Justice; Students for Justice in Palestine-Temple University; the May 1st Coalition for Worker & Immigrant Rights; Estela Vazquez, executive vice president, Local 1199 SEIU*; and the Northeast Political Prisoner Coalition. *For Identification only
To endorse or get information, contact [email protected] or call 215-724-1618. For New York City and Newark buses to the march, call 212-330-8029. Facebook page: Mobilization4Mumia.