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The Champion #123 – March 2024

This issue:

  1. The power of peers at EMPOWER
  2. Training new peers through our Peer Partnership Program
  3. Hepatitis NSW Speaker Service
  4. Keeping treatment on track with the Perx app
  5. Nurses are the key in Hep C Remote Prescribing Program
  6. Hepatitis B Mothers and Babies brochure

The power of peers at EMPOWER

Since its launch last August, Hepatitis NSW’s EMPOWER initiative—a peer-implemented 1-minute hep C antibody testing project—has been going from strength to strength thanks to the hard work and dedication of our amazing team of peers.

Our peers guide participants through intake, enrolment, survey and testing, and are able to share their stories, deliver health promotion, and break down the stigma surrounding hep C.

So far, we have had six community activations at Parramatta Mission, partnering with Storr Liver Team in Western Sydney LHD, and two at the Rev. Bill Crews Foundation at Ashfield, partnering with Sydney LHD HARP (HIV and Related Programs) Unit. In the coming month, EMPOWER will be branching out into two new locations.

Our team of peers—Bindi, Will, Grace, JD, Liam, Chantell and Jimmi, led by Pippa — have been planning, reviewing and training so that our systems and model of care can be replicated in multiple locations. Key to EMPOWER’s success is the very personal experiences our peers bring to the program in order to connect with community members. We asked them to share their perspectives.

“Life’s lottery doesn’t smile on everyone and while I am in a position where I can help out, I do. There’s a lot of people out there who have hepatitis C and are unaware of this, so our presence can locate some of them as well as helping them through treatment.” Will

“Many people in community face various forms of discrimination and further marginalisation through interactions with institutional bodies, their agents and often from society at large. Even through the difficulties, it is the wonderful humanity, interesting lives, and rich uniqueness which make working with community such a rewarding experience.” Liam

“Working with my peers in this fantastic team has been excellent. Knowing that we can share our experience and hope with the community we support is a humbling experience for us all. Furthermore, engaging within the community is what I love to do, offering support wherever and whenever it’s needed.” Chantell

“I love working with the community as I can use my lived experience to reassure people that the treatment works. As a peer, I come without judgement and with understanding, so people are more likely to share private information with me. I felt a lot of blame accessing healthcare as my experiences with healthcare workers and services were… less than perfect. I’ve had a doctor say “You shouldn’t have used a dirty needle.” I want to take that feeling of shame and blame away from people by being open about my experiences. As cliche as it sounds, I find working for Empower, well, empowering, being trained to test people for antibodies as well as the trust shown to me by the community.” Grace

“I’ve only done one Empower shift so far. It was a really good experience. The length of time it takes to get through the questionnaires and blood test makes the interaction more intimate and gives us a chance to learn a bit about where people are at in their lives. I found this rewarding, although it takes a lot of concentration to establish trust while also making sure that no mistakes are made.” Jimmi

Training new peers through our Peer Partnership Program

In late February, our Peer Partnership Program Team delivered a successful training session for five new hep C peer workers. Four of the trainees joined in person in Surry Hills, while another joined online from regional NSW.

The training covered all the basics of peer work at Hep NSW including the origins of peer work, holding strong boundaries, collecting data, and balancing authenticity with professionalism. We had the privilege of sharing stories with the new peers and hearing parts of their own lived experience, creating a bond within the group.

We would like to thank Grace Robin from Sydney LHD—who has worked alongside our peers on many occasions—for generously visiting us on the day. Grace spoke with clear passion for her work; helping the new peers to understand how different outreach locations can vary, how to develop strong partnerships with clinical staff, and how the unique abilities of peer workers enhance the work of the LHD.

The peer partnership team of Elle and JD were proud to receive enthusiastic feedback from trainees, who said that “it was all interesting and engaging” and “the honesty and patience of Elle and JD made me feel at ease”.

With another training session being planned for the Mid North Coast within the next few months, the success of this training day has shown that we can confidently roll out the same package as needed.

We look forward to these new recruits joining our experienced state-wide team of 20 peers. We expect that they will soon be helping to cover the increasing demand for peer worker involvement with our LHD partners that we have seen over the past year—especially with July’s busy Hepatitis Awareness Week and the HEP CURED campaign quickly approaching.

Hepatitis NSW Speaker Service

People living with hep B and hep C often face challenges to accessing healthcare due to negative community attitudes and stigma.

To improve these attitudes in the broader community and healthcare workforce, there’s nothing quite like the power of a universally-inspiring personal story.

The Hepatitis NSW Speaker Service gives people who are affected by viral hepatitis the opportunity to talk about their lived experience, while also providing an opportunity for audiences and organisers to ask questions. This is a great way to hear first-hand personal accounts, challenge myths and stereotypes, address discriminatory attitudes, and gain insight into the psychosocial issues associated with living with hep B or C.

Our speakers are trained in public speaking and share their stories with participants as part of our broader hep B and hep C education sessions, as well as at community workshops and events. Our speakers with lived experience of hep B can also deliver their personal stories in English, Chinese (Mandarin) and Korean.

To book a speaker see our website >>>CLICK HERE

Feedback on lived experience speakers:

“They were fantastic, their story is an inspiration.”

“Such a valuable insight for us on the stigma and discrimination they felt. Their honesty and openness were very much appreciated. It made me think about being more selective in the healthcare professionals I choose to see. Good on them for sharing their experience.”

“It is always a pleasure to hear from people who are most affected but also how getting treated and cured changed their life. It gives us perspective and understanding of the work we do every day and its impact.”

Keeping treatment on track with the Perx app

For anyone about to start hep C treatment, the Hepatitis NSW Hep Connect Perx App is a great way to manage their treatment plan.

Perx is free to use in NSW, and the app is easy to download, install and configure. App users can manage their 8 or 12-week hep C treatment plan, organise their daily meds and appointments, and keep track of their medical results. As an extra motivation, they can win shopping vouchers from Coles, JB Hi-Fi, Priceline, Target and Woolworths for completing games and sticking to the treatment plan.

By helping to keep someone’s treatment on schedule, Perx also makes time for rest and relaxation. The intuitive interface and support team both contribute to medication adherence and overall health management from start to hep C cure.

The Perx app’s combination of practical features, rewards, and support make it highly recommended for anyone starting (or already on) their hep C treatment.

For more information >>>CLICK HERE

For assistance, call our infoline at 1800 803 990.

Nurses are the key in Hep C Remote Prescribing Program

Currently, there are many barriers for people with hep C who are seeking treatment: in addition to stigma and discrimination, they also face difficulties with locating a prescriber, long appointment waiting times, distance, and cost. In order to achieve Australia’s target to eliminate hep C as a public health threat by 2030, we need innovative models of care to increase screening, testing and treatment in priority populations and settings.

Nurses are integral in identifying people at risk, offering testing, linking them to care, and providing treatment. This is why the NSW Hepatitis C Remote Prescribing Program—funded by NSW Health and coordinated by ASHM—utilises a nurse-led and patient-centered model of care.

Nurses perform the hepatitis C assessment and work-up, then refer remotely to participating medical practitioners and authorised nurse practitioners who review the patient’s information and prescribe treatment. The nurses educate patients on transmission, prevention, harm minimisation, treatment adherence and potential side effect management. They can also inform patients when their prescribed medication is ready for collection, or take the medication to the patient and provide individualised treatment support. And, once a patient’s treatment is finished, they can arrange testing to assess treatment response.

Since the program started in 2020, this nurse-led model of care has enabled over 210 patients to be treated, and has proven broad application across a wide range of settings including General Practice, Alcohol and Other Drugs services, Aboriginal Medical Services, homelessness settings, mental health services and point-of-care testing sites.

There are currently 22 nurse referrers participating in the program. Further increases could enable more people living with hep C to access timely treatment in their preferred setting.

For more information >>>CLICK HERE

Hepatitis B Mothers and Babies

Hepatitis NSW has a great catalogue of helpful and informative resources including our popular Hepatitis B Mothers and Babies brochure.

This is an easy read brochure for pregnant women diagnosed with hep B during antenatal screening. Hep B diagnosis can be stressful for mums-to-be, and this resource helps to ease their concerns with reassuring info given in a confidential, non-judgmental and friendly format. Hepatitis B Mothers and Babies is written and designed for women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, but can be used by anyone.

The brochure covers a description of hepatitis B, transmission and treatment options, how to protect your baby, and much more!

If you are a midwife, or an OB/GYN, or offer maternity or shared care services, please consider ordering copies for your clients.

To read the Hepatitis B Mothers and Babies brochure online or order FREE copies >>>CLICK HERE

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