District marks World AIDS Day as booklet about living with HIV recognised
A multilingual HIV information booklet developed by Sydney Local Health District has been recognised as a finalist in the 2021 Multicultural Health Communication Awards, as the world marks 40 years since the start of the AIDS epidemic.
The state-wide Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service, hosted by the District, partnered with the community to develop the booklet, called HIV – What you need to know. It focuses on HIV prevention, testing, and treatment as well as addressing stigma and improving access to health services.
“Advances in treatments and prevention mean that people with HIV on effective treatments can enjoy long and healthy lives, have virtually no risk of passing on HIV to others and can have children without HIV,” Barbara Luisi, the District’s Director of the Diversity Programs and Strategy Hub, said.
The Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service works with people living with HIV from diverse communities, many of whom report feeling isolated and stigmatised within the general community.
“In response to the concerns of our community, we developed this booklet in partnership with them. Insights and feedback from community consultations, focus group testing and peer-review played a critical role in taking a culturally appropriate approach to a sensitive topic,” Ms Luisi said.
The booklet is available in eight languages – English, Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese.
So far, more than 6,500 hard copies have been distributed state-wide through healthcare services, NGOs and community based organisations. Digital copies can be downloaded from the Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service.
“We hope it will contribute to changing attitudes about HIV and help to reduce stigma,” Ms Luisi said.
The recognition as a finalist in the Multicultural Health Communication Awards coincides with World AIDS Day, which is an opportunity to reflect on the response to the HIV and AIDS epidemic. This year’s theme is 40 years of HIV – where to next?
The first five cases of what later became known as AIDS were officially reported in 1981.
It marked the beginning of a devastating public health crisis, but in the decade since there have been scientific advances particularly in the area of HIV treatments and prevention.
The NSW HIV Strategy 2020 – 2025 continues Australia’s commitment to end HIV by 2025 while acknowledging that stigma continues to create barriers to HIV testing and treatment.
The Strategy aims for a 75 per cent reduction in discriminatory attitudes held towards people living with or at risk of HIV.
The winners of the Multicultural Health Communication Awards will be announced on 8 -December 2021.
This campaign encourages people at risk of HIV to ask their doctor for a test, according to Barbara Luisi, Director of the Diversity Programs and Strategy Hub at Sydney Local Health District.
“Knowing your HIV test result early means getting the right help on time. With treatment, people have a better chance of living long, healthy lives and not passing on the virus,” said Ms Luisi.HIV remains a public health concern in Australia with an estimated 29,045 people living with HIV in 2019. According to the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) more than three thousand people remain unaware they have the virus and may be unknowingly passing it on to others. They also risk missing out on getting HIV treatments on time due to late diagnosis.
There are a variety of ways to get a HIV test these days, including not having to visit a clinic in person for testing.
The online Dried Blood Spot (DBS) Testing allows people to order a free testing kit, do the test in the privacy of their own home and send it to a laboratory to check their results.
The test can be ordered by visiting the DBS site http://www.hivtest.health.nsw.gov.au which also has information in a range of languages including plain English.
The DBS test results are kept private and confidential.
The Sydney Local Health District based Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service is supporting the campaign by promoting HIV home testing across Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian and Thai community media.
Finding the right information at the right time is critical if people are to stay healthy and to support our global goal to eliminate AIDS by 2030, according to Barbara Luisi, Director of the Diversity Programs and Strategy Hub at Sydney Local Health District.
“Our booklet explains what it means to live with HIV as well as how people can protect themselves from HIV. The resource has up to date information on HIV test and treatment and a comprehensive list of care and support services to allay people’s concerns about living with HIV. It is a great resource to have and share.”Developed by the MHAHS, the HIV. What you need to know booklet, is available in eight languages including English, Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai and Vietnamese. The e-booklet can be downloaded here and free hard copies are available to order.
HIV remains a public health concern in Australia with an estimated 28,180 people living with HIV in Australia currently, according to the 2019 report by the Kirby Institute.
Nearly one in ten Australians living with HIV are unaware they have the virus and may be unknowingly passing on the virus to others. They also risk missing out on getting HIV treatments on time due to late diagnosis. A better understanding of HIV could avoid these risks.
A number of events are being organised across Australia to support the HIV awareness campaign. Diversity Hub is supporting the campaign by undertaking an ethnic media campaign across 8 languages as well as partnering with the local HARP unit to organise information stalls in the local area.
HIV is most commonly transmitted through unprotected sexual contact. Condoms and PrEP, where you take a tablet once a day, every day, remain two of most effective ways to prevent the transmission of HIV.
As the COVID-19 pandemic increases people’s awareness of their health and wellbeing, the Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service (MHAHS) is reminding people of the necessity to take care of their health and their liver in a state-wide multi-channel hepatitis B campaign.
The campaign encourages people from diverse communities to get tested for hepatitis B. The aim is to raise awareness of hepatitis B testing and treatment in Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese-speaking communities living in NSW.
Beginning 19 October, the month-long campaign will run across ethnic newspaper, radio and social media outlets, and communicate a simple message: Are you living with hepatitis B? Find Out. Get Tested.
Getting check-ups and finding whether you are living with hepatitis B matters even more during COVID-19, according to Barbara Luisi, Director of Diversity Programs and Strategy Hub.
“The spread of the coronavirus reminds us of the importance of taking care of ourselves,” said Ms Luisi.
“There are many things we can do to take care of ourselves, including maintaining a healthy lifestyle, doing regular check-ups and being aware of any potential health issues before it is too late. Getting tested and finding whether you have hepatitis B is part of it.”
An estimated 325 million people are living with viral hepatitis in the world with nearly 90% of them unaware that they are infected, according to the World Health Organization. Without treatment, it can lead to liver cancer.
In Australia, there were an estimated 230,034 people living with chronic hepatitis B as of the end of 2016, according to a report published by the Kirby Institute in 2019, with only 7% were receiving treatment. A large proportion of people living with chronic hepatitis B is still undiagnosed, many of them are born overseas.
Effective treatments are available which improve the health of people living with chronic hepatitis B. Early access to treatment prevents serious liver damage and allows people to live longer, healthier lives.
The campaign encourages people to speak to their doctor and families about getting a hepatitis B test.
Four key messages are conveyed through the campaign to tackle hepatitis B among diverse communities:
- People from diverse communities should talk to their doctor and ask for a hepatitis B test. All conversations with your doctor remain private in Australia.
- The only way to know if you have chronic hepatitis B is by having a specific blood test.
- Hepatitis B is common in many diverse communities, although most people with hepatitis B remain unaware and do not have any symptoms.
- Effective treatments are available that control the hepatitis B virus and reduce liver damage and the risk of liver cancer.
A multilingual resource toolkit, which includes the campaign resources and guidelines for use is available on the campaign webpage.