Viral hepatitis isn’t just an issue for one community but for many others, according Barbara Luisi, manager of the Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service (MHAHS).
“Joining hands with affected communities makes sense for it is both respectful as well as necessary. Only the affected communities know how to tap into their own networks and find the missing millions unaware of viral hepatitis. Unless we engage communities to help spread the word about the importance of testing for hepatitis C and the new treatments that cure hepatitis C, lives will continue to be lost,” said Ms Luisi.According to the World Hepatitis Alliance, globally an estimated 325 million people are living with viral hepatitis with about 290 million unaware of their status, including people from the culturally diverse communities.
(Dr Chant acknowledging the role of community collaboration at the 2018 World Hepatitis Day launch in Sydney)
More than a quarter of all Australians living with hepatitis C have been successfully treated and cured since 2016. Despite this, many people from diverse cultural backgrounds still remain unaware of new, effective treatments, according to Senior Staff Specialist at the AW Morrow Gastro and Liver Centre, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Associate Professor Simone Strasser.
“People born in countries of high hepatitis C prevalence may have acquired hepatitis C through unsterile medical or traditional practices in their country of birth. Often they acquired hepatitis C at a young age and are not aware of their hepatitis status until later in life, resulting in higher risk of serious liver disease and/or cancer.
“We need to get the message out that testing for hepatitis C is just a simple blood test. If you think you could possibly have it, get a blood test. If you’ve got it, you can have 8 to 12 weeks of tablets and get cured. So, it is a really, really important message.”The MHAHS has recently launched the Live free of hepatitis C multilingual campaign aimed at supporting World Hepatitis Day and to raise awareness of hepatitis C testing and the availability of a cure among Arabic-, Chinese- and Vietnamese-speaking communities living in NSW. Visit our World Hepatitis Day campaign page for more details.
Developed by the MHAHS, the new video is part of the Live free of hepatitis C campaign aimed to provide diverse communities with information about the benefits of testing for hepatitis C and the new treatment’s which cure it, according to Renée Moreton, Acting General Manager of Population Health, Sydney Local Health District who launched the campaign.
“It’s an exciting and challenging time to be working in the area of hepatitis C with the advent of breakthroughs in the treatment of hepatitis C. The new treatments mean that people can be cured of hepatitis C with little or no side effects. The Live free of hepatitis C campaign aims to raise awareness of hepatitis C, the importance of testing and the availability of a cure among Arabic-, Chinese-speaking and Vietnamese communities.The videos feature real people sharing their story about living with hepatitis C, undertaking treatment and being cured. They also debunk common myths about hepatitis C.
While the new treatments continue to dramatically reshape the hepatitis C landscape in Australia, challenges remain to make the health system more responsive to the needs of all people including those from diverse cultural backgrounds, according to Senior Staff Specialist at the AW Morrow Gastro and Liver Centre, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Associate Professor Simone Strasser.
“We have now treated almost a quarter of all people living with hepatitis C nationally. But there are big gaps. About 20% of people living with hepatitis C in Australia have got it from ways other than injecting drug use. It could have been from an operation, or blood products, a procedure, a dental treatment, or tattoo in their country of birth where non-sterile techniques were used. And that is a very, very common scenario in people from migrant communities living with hepatitis C here."“We need to get the message out that testing for hepatitis C is just a simple blood test. If you think you could possibly have it, get a blood test. If you’ve got it, you can have 8 to 12 weeks of tablets and get cured. So, it is a really, really important message”.
Visit Live free of hepatitis C campaign page for multilingual posters, wallet cards, and videos.
Are you living with hepatitis C? A cure is available, an exciting new video for the hepatitis C campaign in Australia, is fast nearing completion. Anticipated for a World Hepatitis Day debut later in July, the video is a unique blend of real life and animation that is generating lots of positive buzz prior to its completion.
“We have already had strong interest from different health services and community organisations wanting to see screenings which is quite exciting as the video is still in post-production,” explains MHAHS manager, Barbara Luisi.
The video centres on the experiences of the people from diverse communities living with hepatitis C, their struggles and ultimately their triumph over the virus using the new cure.
“The video is about telling a story with cultural sensitivity at its core. We were interested in exploring how people from diverse communities view hepatitis C, overcome the challenges and explain the new treatments, rather than a straight health information video. It deviates a little from the usual line of storytelling, which is both refreshing and different as well as inclusive,” said Ms Luisi.
Health Promotion Officer, Ally Kerr who coordinated the production with Art Resistance is excited the film is nearing completion.
“It was a challenge, but we had great fun filming the video in different locations. Now we’re getting to the last stages of post-production. We’ve shown it to few people and got some really pleasing results.”
“You’re always a bit worried the first time you show a film before the final edit, but the feedback has been very positive. I think our video has strong cultural sensitivities while providing important information about the new hepatitis C cure,” Ms Kerr said.
MHAHS has released photos of filming on location along with a sneak peek of the animation.
Are you living with hepatitis C? A cure is available is set to be launched mid-July in time for World Hepatitis Day on 28th July. For more information visit www.mhahs.org.au or like the Facebook page at www.mhahs.org.au/TheMHAHS.
NSW Health’s Director of Communicable Diseases, Dr Vicky Sheppeard, said the flu vaccines are now available at most GPs, Aboriginal Medical Services, and for children, at most council and community health services that routinely provide childhood vaccination services.
“Vaccination is your best protection against the flu, so we encourage you and your loved ones to get vaccinated against this deadly infection this winter,” Dr Sheppeard said.
The flu shots will benefit a range of people, including those with medical conditions predisposed to flu, according to Barbara Luisi, manager of the MHAHS.
"Flu shots are available for free to members of the community who are pregnant, children up to five years of age and people over 65 years of age, most Aboriginal people and those with medical conditions such as HIV, asthma, diabetes and heart problems. Flu vaccination can help people living with HIV to avoid the potential harmful effects of seasonal flu. Don’t forget your flu jab this winter," Ms Luisi said.
Copies of the multilingual poster have also been sent out to all relevant ethnic media outlets by the MHAHS along with a shell media release from the NSW Health, for public education.
The flu campaign emphasize vaccination as the best protection against the flu and suggests the following as ways to also help prevent the spread of influenza:
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow
- Clean your hands
- Stay home when sick.