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The Champion #109 – August 2022

This issue:

  1. World Hepatitis Day: No excuses, hep can’t wait
  2. World Hepatitis Day 2022 Event
  3. HEP CURED campaign keeps on rolling
  4. Write to Be Heard book tells hep B stories from Chinese and Korean communities
  5. Radio interviews and podcasts
  6. Getting hep C elimination in prisons back on track… Dillwynia
  7. June community sessions on hep B and diabetes
  8. Mandatory Disease Testing Act commences

World Hepatitis Day: No excuses, hep can’t wait

World Hepatitis Day: No excuses, hep can’t wait

Thursday, 28 July marked World Hepatitis Day 2022, an important opportunity to give visibility to, and raise awareness of viral hepatitis, as well to drive better outcomes for people affected by viral hepatitis. World Hepatitis Day is one of only eight official health days declared by the World Health Organization. The WHO theme for this year is “Hepatitis Can’t Wait”.

If Australian and NSW targets are to be achieved, there is a continuing urgency to redouble efforts to eliminate hepatitis as a global public health threat. Fortunately, 2022 has seen a resumption of, and/or increase in, services for testing of and treatment of both hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Similarly, education and community contact efforts have also picked up significantly.

The continuing public health issues generated by the COVID pandemic however remain an ever-present challenge to health care providers and services, community organisations and medical professionals seeking to reach people living with, or at-risk of, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Viral hepatitis doesn’t care about other health crises. Left unchecked both hepatitis B and hepatitis C will continue to find new people to infect and continue to damage the livers of those already living with the viruses.

Advances have been made in Australia and New South Wales on many fronts for both hepatitis B and hepatitis C. While much has been achieved through the combined and concerted efforts of community health organisations, clinicians, health departments, and researchers, we all agree that there is still much to be done to meet elimination targets in this country.

In NSW, World Hepatitis Day falls within Hepatitis Awareness Week which runs 25-30 July. The week includes a range of local and state-wide activities, events, and initiatives to improve population outcomes for both hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

Thanks to the game changing direct acting anti-viral (DAA) medications, people have the chance to be free of the virus, and to also be healthier, to be part of the future of their children, grandchildren and loved ones. So far, over 30,000 people in New South Wales have started treatment for hepatitis C since 2016. However, an estimated 40,000 remain, still to be treated and cured.

As part of the effort to reach these many people, the major activity this year in NSW is the roll out of the refreshed HEP CURED health promotion campaign. Please see article below for more on that project.

For hepatitis B, while there is a vaccine, a cure is not currently available. Upwards of 80,000 people in NSW live with this virus. Like hepatitis C, if left unmonitored, hepatitis B can cause significant damage to the liver including cirrhosis and cancer.

Fortunately, a treatment, if required, is available which keeps the virus in check and significantly reduces the risk to health and the liver. The caveat to this good news is that regular annual testing for people living with the virus is essential and many in affected communities are unaware of this essential health requirement.

Efforts to eliminate hepatitis B as a public health concern faces some similar, but many different hurdles to hepatitis C. This can be done but not first without clinical and community education, and by breaking down barriers caused by stigma, as well as using appropriate cultural and in-language engagement.

As always, we encourage people to contact the Hepatitis NSW Infoline on 1800 803 990 for more information about the testing and treatment options available, or hepatitis generally. You can also contact us using our online chat function on this website.

World Hepatitis Day 2022 Event

World Hepatitis Day 2022 Event
(left to right): Grenville Rose (HNSW), Sally-Anne Joseph (HNSW Vice-President), Jin Ahn (contributor, Write To Be Heard (WTBH)), Mina Kim (HNSW), Hee-Sook Kim (HNSW), Dr Kerry Chant (NSW Chief Health Officer), Dr Marianne Gale (Director, PCH, SES LHD), Soonie Lee (contributor, WTBH), Steven Drew (HNSW, CEO)

Hepatitis NSW co-hosted a special event to launch and promote World Hepatitis Day 2022 with South-East Sydney Local Health District and the NSW Ministry of Health. The event was held at Sydney Hospital on Thursday, July 28.

Both Steven Drew, Hepatitis NSW CEO, and Dr Marianne Gale, Director, Population and Community Health, South East Sydney Local Health District, talked about achievements and the challenges ahead in efforts to engage affected communities and help people be cured of hep C, and to test/monitor hep B.

Dr Kerry Chant, the NSW Chief Health Officer, gave the keynote address. She spoke about key elements of the recently released NSW Hep C Strategy, Dried Blood Spot testing, the HEP CURED communications campaign, and also progress in NSW towards hep B elimination.

Lived experience speakers from Hepatitis NSW then addressed the invited audience. Firstly, Grenville Rose spoke of his experience with hep C, including unpleasant attempts with interferon treatment before being cured using the new direct acting antiviral treatments. Hee-Sook Kim talked about being diagnosed with hep B, how that affected her life and migration to Australia, plus how she regularly monitors the virus through testing. Both spoke about the stigma they experienced and how they overcame discrimination.

The event also saw the launch, by Dr Chant, of a new tri-lingual book published by Hepatitis NSW Write To Be Heard: Hepatitis B Stories from the Chinese and Korean Communities (see article below to read more). A podcast, The Daily Dose, from the North Coast HARP, which tells the personal stories of people who inject drugs, was also launched.

HEP CURED lettermen  Maria McMahon and Charles Henderson

Excitingly, the HEP CURED Mobile Mural acted as the main stage with the “Letter Men” at the back, and kerbside with the Domain, spelling out… HEP CURED!

HEP CURED campaign keeps on rolling

HEP CURED campaign

This year, HEP CURED went beyond general awareness raising, with Hepatitis NSW partnering with Local Health Districts to deliver local events connected to the campaign. This included deploying our lived experience hepatitis C peers, and staff, to many areas across the state.

Our peers are invaluable at building a bridge between members of the community and clinical staff. They also help to reduce the fear of stigma while also explaining the testing process, and the benefits and ease of hepatitis C cure.

The HEP CURED campaign uses simple messaging and strong imagery to promote the availability and effectiveness of cures for hepatitis C. The core message instils a sense of connection with loved ones and significant others.

Another exciting addition to the campaign, is the HEP CURED mobile mural. Boldly stating the HEP CURED message, this colourful, eye-catching mural has been painted on one side of a campaign billboard mounted to a truck. The mobile mural has taken the successful campaign on the road, literally, around Sydney and regional areas. Excitingly, it was also the backdrop for the World Hepatitis Day event at Sydney Hospital.

Around 40,000 people in NSW are living with hepatitis C and remain unaware of game-changing treatment options and pathways. The HEP CURED campaign, peers, and mobile mural gets the message out there for everyone to see and encourages them to live their best life.

10th Cheryl Burman Award | 2022 | Hepatitis NSW

Write to Be Heard book tells hep B stories from Chinese and Korean communities

Write to Be Heard tells hep B stories from Chinese and Korean communities

Hepatitis NSW has published Write to Be Heard: Hepatitis B Stories from the Chinese and Korean Communities. This tri-lingual printed book – in English, Korean and Chinese – contains twelve personal stories detailing lived experience, from people in NSW communities affected by hepatitis B.

In her foreword to the book, Dr Alice Lee, Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist, said, “Sharing personal stories amongst a community that aspires to (the goal of improving) the life of each and every person affected by hepatitis B, as well as their families, is one of the many steps in breaking down these barriers (of treatment misconceptions and stigma).”

Write to Be Heard is one part of Hepatitis NSW’s ongoing work in community engagement around hep B and efforts to increase knowledge and testing and reduce stigma. It was developed following a writing competition held last year during the COVID lockdown. The winning stories have been published in this book.

Dr Kerry Chant launched Write to Be Heard at the Sydney Hospital as part of the World Hepatitis Day launch event (see image, right). In her remarks, Dr Chant said, “I hope the book helps to support and encourage people living with hepatitis B to follow up with their regular monitoring, continue treatment if needed, and live a long, healthy life.”

A small number of the book in its tri-lingual format has been published and will be distributed selectively. It is also available to read online in three versions:

Radio interview, video and podcasts provide important community messages

Radio interview, video and podcasts promote important community messages

Over Hepatitis Awareness Week a number of interviews, videos and podcasts were made available through various outlets. They are listed below for your your viewing/listening pleasure!

Interview: Steven Drew

Hepatitis NSW CEO, Steven Drew, is interviewed by The Wire radio for World Hepatitis Day. >>>LISTEN

Podcast: Rachel, Lived Experience Hep B Speaker

Hepatitis NSW Hep B Lived Experience Speaker Rachel talks to the Sydney Sexual Health Centre Podcast (Episode #36) about living with the virus, stigma, acceptance, testing and more. Other guests for this hepatitis B focused episode include Anik from the fibroscan clinic and Wa’el from MHAHS. Rachel starts at 32’53”. >>>LISTEN 

Video: Dried Blood Spot Testing

Sydney Local Health District has made this video – featuring the HEP CURED mobile mural and Hepatitis NSW peers – about how they are making it easier for vulnerable people to get tested for hep C with a Mobile Health Clinic offering DBS testing at Riverwood for the first time. >>>WATCH

Podcast: Daily Dose

The Daily Dose podcast, launched on World Hepatitis Day by Dr Kerry Chant, looks at the personal and untold stories of people who inject drugs and gives a voice to their lives and circumstances, looking behind the stigma. It was produced by Authentic You Media in collaboration with North Coast HARP. >>>LISTEN

Getting hep C elimination in prisons back on track… Dillwynia

Getting hep C elimination in prisons back on track... Dillwynia

Women at Dillwynia Correctional Centre were keen participants in hep C educational and testing efforts during this year’s NSW Hepatitis Awareness Week. The Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network (The Network) invited Hepatitis NSW and NSW Users and AIDS Association (NUAA) to support a large education and testing event for women in the new section of the maximum-security prison on July 27.

Education sessions were held in each pod, engaging women in discussions around liver health, hep C treatment and harm reduction. Our lived experience speaker related to women’s experiences around transmission, stigma, motherhood, resilience and achieving a cure when so many other priorities compete for attention.

The women were encouraged to speak with their nurse and take the hep C test. Dried Blood Spot (DBS) and Point-of-Care (POC) testing were offered by The Network nurses on the day and all women received health promotion material including drink bottles, beanies and playing cards.

In all, 150 women attended the interactive education sessions, 64 hep C tests were conducted on the day with more scheduled for the following days. Hepatitis NSW thanks The Network for inviting us to partner on this important event, the staff at Dillwynia CC for ensuring it ran smoothly and the women who participated and shared their stories and contributed to the elimination of hep C by 2028.

June community sessions on hep B and diabetes

June community sessions on hep B and diabetes

Hepatitis NSW co-hosted two face-to-face health seminars about Hepatitis and Diabetes with the National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) in June.

These seminars were conducted in-language for Chinese and Korean residents in Australia. Perhaps because it was a face-to-face event after a long time, they are very well received by the community.

The Chinese community session took place at Chatswood Dougherty Community Centre. Fan dancers and choirs performed to brighten the scene. Our hep B project worker, Shan Tao, provided information on hepatitis and liver cancer in Chinese. NDSS provided information on diabetes and talked about diet and diabetes management.

The Korean community session was at Strathfield Sports Club. A female soprano soloist and folk dancers were a popular part of the event. Our hep B project worker, Mina Kim, talked about liver health, emphasised the importance of hepatitis testing and management (see image, above). Kris Park, an endocrinologist, talked about management, and a physical therapist led a workout with the audience.

The events were very successful and well received with about 60 people attending, learning and answering our hepatitis B survey. It was meaningful for people as they experienced the efforts of community organisations to enhance and keep their community healthy, as Hepatitis NSW and NDSS were joined by organisations like AKWA-Australian Korean Welfare Association and CASS.

Mandatory Disease Testing Act commences

Mandatory Disease Testing Act commences

Advice has been received that the Mandatory Disease Testing Act 2021 (the Act) – a law that compels people to undergo a blood test if they expose frontline workers to body fluids – commenced on 29 July, 2022… less than 24-hours after World Hepatitis Day, no less. The NSW Attorney General and the Minister for Police are the responsible ministers of the Act.

The NSW Chief Health Officer’s guidelines are now also publicly available and can be found online >>> CLICK HERE

In addition, the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) has prepared a website which holds template forms for use under the Act as well as some other information >>> CLICK HERE

Hepatitis NSW, along with our BBV/STI sector partner organisations strongly opposed and fought against the law from its announcement. Despite the evidence showing no need for it, however, our campaign efforts were not successful. We have not given up, and we support and are committed to sector-wide monitoring of the Act. We will continue to engage in ongoing discussions/consultations about processes in place and opportunities to work with our partner organisations and NSW Health to develop further resources and processes that improve this unnecessary and harmful law.

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