The Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service hosted community events across Sydney in partnership with the Hepatitis B Community Alliance to mark Hepatitis Awareness Week (28th to 3rd August).
Funded by Hepatitis NSW Community Grants, the events will provide community members access to important information about hepatitis B as well as talks from health experts on liver health. Information resources on viral hepatitis will be provided to all who attend.
The strong community focus of these events helps connect the campaign to a local level, according to Alliance member, Mr Santram Bajaj, President of the Australian Hindi Indian Association.
“These activities are initiated by the Alliance members to increase awareness of hepatitis B and assist their communities throughout NSW who are at risk of hepatitis B virus,” said Mr Bajaj.
Chronic hepatitis B disproportionately affects people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, particularly those born in regions where hepatitis B virus is common such as East and South-East Asia, the Pacific, Southern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa.
The hepatitis B Community Alliance champions the testing and treatment of people affected by chronic hepatitis B and focuses on building community partnership and working together to address hepatitis B issues in the culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities.
The campaign aims to reduce the impact of hepatitis B infection on an individual’s health, by promoting testing and regular monitoring.
“There are approximately 218,000 people living with chronic hepatitis B in Australia in 2011 with about 77,000 living in NSW, comprising 1.1 per cent of the population,” said Dr Yash Bhasin, Senior Executive Officer of Australian Hindi Indian Association.
“Increased testing and awareness of hepatitis B is crucial to tackling the spread of the virus, as the disease can often lay inactive for years,” said Dr Bhasin.
“Many people living with the virus either contracted it at birth or during childhood in their home country. They may not even be aware that they have it. Testing helps you take care of yourself and protect your family,” said Dr Bhasin.
Barbara Luisi, Manager of MHAHS said, “Hepatitis is a disease that has long been shadowed by stigma, confusion and by silence. It has also been long complicated by the fact that those who are most affected often come from the most vulnerable or under-served communities.”
Mr Bajaj said, “these events represent our commitment, our combined efforts to work together to address this silent epidemic. We encourage community members to participate in these events. It will be a great opportunity to understand what hepatitis B is all about and how it can be treated.”
Hepatitis Awareness Week is coordinated by Hepatitis Australia – who has launched several liver health related resources including a poster emphasizing regular liver screenings.
For more information on hepatitis B, please visit www.mhahs.org.au
For more information about hepatitis B, talk with your doctor (in Australia, all conversations with your doctor remains private) or call the Hepatitis Hotline on 1800 803 990.. If you want to use a telephone interpreter, first call 131 450.