There is a pressing need to make HIV prevention, testing and treatment services more inclusive, according to this year’s World AIDS Day campaign. The campaign theme ‘Equalise’ highlights the need to tackle HIV stigma and increase access to these key services, so they are welcoming to everyone including people from diverse communities.
HIV remains a public health concern in Australia, with an estimated 29,090 people living with HIV (Kirby Institute 2020 report). Nearly one in ten Australians living with HIV are unaware they have the virus and may be unknowingly passing on the virus to others.
‘Fear of HIV stigma and discrimination is a major reason behind why many people from diverse communities still hesitate to test for HIV,’ said Barbara Luisi, Manager of the Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service (MHAHS).
‘Our communities are more likely to miss out on accessing key HIV services on time. The proportion of late HIV diagnoses is higher among people from CALD communities. Testing early is key for accessing HIV treatment quickly. HIV treatment is free, even if you don’t have a Medicare card.’
MHAHS is supporting the campaign by promoting its award-winning resource HIV: What you need to know, available in eight languages: English, Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese. The e-booklet can be downloaded from the here, and free hard copies are available to order.
What will you do if a family member gets chronic hepatitis B? Is it the end of the world? Will you catch hepatitis B from visiting a friend with the virus?
A newly produced Vietnamese radio drama tries to answer all these questions and more.
Working with Vietnamese Artist Association, our Vietnamese Community Hepatitis B Project developed a three episode radio drama Viêm Gan B: Vang da da vang Tap (Vietnamese: Hepatitis B: Yellow Skin – Skin Yellow) in Vietnamese to promote the basic knowledge of hepatitis B among Vietnamese community in Sydney.
The radio drama features the struggles of a Vietnamese family in Australia and their experience grappling with the challenges of living with hepatitis B in the community.
Hepatitis B is a high priority to many Vietnamese families in Australia, according to Kim Trang Ha, Community Development Officer of Diversity Programs and Strategy Hub. ‘Many people don’t know they have hepatitis B. It is very important that we offer hepatitis B test in our regular health check-ups to Vietnamese families,’ Ms Trang Ha said.
Early diagnosis and timely treatment can prevent chronic hepatitis B from developing into a more serious disease including liver cancer.It is estimated, there are 222,559 people living with chronic hepatitis B at the end of 2020 in Australia, with about 11% receiving treatment. People from diverse cultural backgrounds, particularly those born in regions where hepatitis B is common such as Northeast Asia and South-East Asia, are of higher risks.
Kim enjoys sharing hepatitis B information with local Vietnamese community as much as the community finds them useful.
“I really enjoy helping my community with hepatitis B information and look after their wellbeing,” Kim Trang Ha, the community development officer of Sydney Local Health District’s Diversity Hub said.
Even though the project was disrupted by COVID-19, since starting in August 2020, the Vietnamese community hepatitis B project delivered more than 12 education sessions and reached over 200 community members.
A large proportion of Australians living with chronic hepatitis B are unaware that they are infected, and many of them were born in countries such as Vietnam where hepatitis B is very common. If left untreated, chronic hepatitis B can lead to liver damage, cancer and even death.
The Vietnamese community workshops aims to raise awareness of hepatitis B and encourage them to get testing and treatment. It is also aimed at increasing community access to hepatitis B services and decreasing stigmas towards people with chronic hepatitis B.
'Most of the participants were in their 50s or higher, and currently we have more male participants than previous projects,' said Kim.
'Many of our participants don’t know if they have hepatitis B. In many cases, people weren’t aware until it’s too late to find out.'
'Feedbacks suggest community members found our sessions very informative, interesting, and enjoyable. Many of them said that they were going to get hepatitis B blood test soon after attending the session to find out if they have the virus.'
'I am so pleased that they decided to take the next step and look after themselves with a simple blood test to find out their hepatitis B status,' said Kim.
Vietnamese hepatitis B messages are featured on a 2023 calendar launched by the Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service.
The new spiral wall calendar includes 12 full-colour easy-to-turn pages that introduce key hepatitis B messages and names of health services working with the Vietnamese community. It follows a suite of initiatives undertaken by the Vietnamese Hepatitis B community development project in 2022.
"We are committed to increasing awareness of hepatitis B in the community and hope that our calendar will provide useful information about hepatitis B testing and treatment," said Wa-el Sabri, Senior Community Engagement Officer at Diversity Hub of SLHD.
"We will be delighted if our calendars are on the walls of NSW Vietnamese families and helps them know more about hepatitis B and encourage them to seek hepatitis B testing and treatment on time."
The calendar also celebrates the spirit of the Vietnamese community facing what is a serious health issue together, according to Barbara Luisi, Director of the Diversity Programs and Strategy Hub.
“Many people volunteered to be photographed for our calendar and be part of an initiative to fight the stigma of living with hepatitis B. People from all walks of life came together to take ownership of the issue. Key services with known history of working closely with the community collaborated on the project.
Download a copy of our Vietnamese calendar here.