Community Leaders urge collective action on hepatitis B #TimeForAction

Local communities across Australia, including the African, Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Indonesian, Italian and Vietnamese communities, are being urged to take action to test, treat and prevent hepatitis B.

Speaking ahead of the World Hepatitis Day and Hepatitis Awareness Week 2015, the President of the African Women’s Group and member of the Hepatitis B Alliance NSW, Ms Rosemary Kariuki-Fyfe said the annual Awareness Week provides a wonderful opportunity for communities to come together and take action to combat hepatitis B.

“Hepatitis B is a serious liver infection and can cause serious health problems, including liver cancer. That’s why it’s important that our people take positive action and get tested, and if found to have hepatitis B, speak to their doctor about regular check-ups and treatment. These simple actions can save lives,” Ms Kariuki-Fyfe said.

Figures released by Hepatitis Australia show there are approximately 218,000 people living with chronic hepatitis B in Australia in 2011 with about 77,000 living in NSW. Liver cancer is now the fastest growing cause of cancer death in Australia.

Chronic hepatitis B disproportionately affects people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, particularly those born in regions where hepatitis B is common such as East and South-East Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East, Mediterranean and Africa.

Ms Kariuki-Fyfe said hepatitis B was a collective responsibility and said success against it would depend on our leadership and everyone working together.

“Everyone can take action. For example, health care professionals looking after people from CALD backgrounds must know that high rates of hepatitis B exist in CALD communities and that people living with hepatitis B often have little or no symptoms until the liver becomes severely damaged. On the other hand, people from CALD backgrounds must also need to ask their doctor for a hepatitis B blood test”.  

Ms Kariuki-Fyfe released a list of actions that members of the African community in Australia can take to tackle hepatitis B:

•    Acknowledge that hepatitis B is a very common in our community.

•    Understand that hepatitis B can lead to serious liver damage, even liver cancer.

•    Know that the most common way hepatitis B is passed on is from mother-to-child at birth.

•    Get tested for hepatitis B. If you have it, there are treatments that can prevent liver cancer.

•    If you have hepatitis B, talk to your doctor about regular checks and treatment options.

“Every Australian has a role to play in the fight against hepatitis B. We should take courage from knowing that we have the tools to test, treat and prevent hepatitis B and make this condition rare in our life. Let’s make it happen,” said Ms Kariuki-Fyfe.

Hepatitis Awareness Week is coordinated by Hepatitis Australia – which has launched several hepatitis related resources including a poster titled Time for Action emphasizing regular liver testing and treatment.

Visit www.mhahs.org.au for more information on hepatitis B and resources related to the World Hepatitis Day and Hepatitis Awareness Week.

Talk to your doctor about hepatitis B (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.