A personal reflection on WHD events from Guest Blogger Yvonne Drazic
WHD was again promoted and celebrated in style in Cairns with lots of dedicated people making it a great success. The key organizers were Rhondda, the Viral Hepatitis Health Practitioner from the Cairns Sexual Health Service, and Alanna and Julie from the Queensland Injectors’ Health Network (QuIHN). At present, the bulk of hepatitis B health promotion and patient support is done through these organizations as part of hepatitis C and HIV services because sufficient separate government funding for hepatitis B is not yet forthcoming.
Last year, Rhondda organized a fabulous free lecture about hepatitis B which, while aimed at health care professionals and medical staff, was open to the public and especially to people affected by or living with hepatitis B. The speaker was Dr. Benjamin Cowie, an infectious diseases physician from Melbourne with a special interest in hepatitis B. His passionate and compelling presentation evoked great feedback from the audience, many stating it was a real eye-opener. This year’s lecture was presented by Dr. Joshua Davis who spoke equally engaging about his efforts to address hepatitis B in Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. The talk attracted an audience of more than 100 people. As an add-on to the lecture, Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander health workers could move on to an event/workshop called Yarnin up HepB where they were able to discuss anything hepB – and get expert advice – from Dr. Davis. This was very well received although many participants were quite disturbed about the statistics of hep B in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
This year the open day at Cairns Sexual Health Service was called “Hep Day Out”. It was designed to be fun with funky, colourful posters (created by the talented Murph) and a music jam session. Like last year, the day featured tours of the premises with screening opportunities, as well as the famous QuIHN van offering information, a scrumptious lunch and fun activities. Every visitor who took the tour and completed a short quiz received a cool t-shirt courtesy of Hepatitis Queensland (see photos) and a health pack. In addition, the resident psychologist was on site for people who wanted a chat and I was available for brain-picking for everyone who wanted to know more about hepatitis B. Invitations were distributed to migrant services and communities but unfortunately did not attract any visitors from these groups. Possibly the time was unsuitable due to work commitments but it could also be due to fear of stigmatization which may be increased in these populations. I am currently conducting research to explore barriers and other issues that may keep people from engaging in health-protective actions such as screening and monitoring. It will also help to find more effective ways of engaging with migrant communities and get a better turnout for next year’s WHD.
Overall, plenty of awareness was raised, many people were educated about viral hepatitis, and a fun time was had by all.