Human Rights and Hepatitis B
Every year on December 10th, we celebrate Human Rights Day! This year’s theme is “Equality – Reducing inequalities, advancing human rights.” This theme emphasizes equality, inclusion, and non-discrimination to further the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
So how does this year’s theme relate to hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is the most common liver infection in the world. Almost 300 million people worldwide are living with chronic hepatitis B, yet there are a lot of misconceptions and myths surrounding the disease which perpetuates stigma, discrimination, inequality, and exclusion.
More commonly, misconceptions surround the transmission of hepatitis B. Sometimes people think that hepatitis B can be spread through casual contact, through sharing food, through dirty environments – others feel that people with hepatitis B must have done something “bad” to get the virus. These perceptions can be damaging to an individual who is living with hepatitis B because it can create not only social stigma but self-stigma.
A person living with hepatitis B might feel like they cannot disclose their status or live freely because of the way people or institutions will treat them. This fear of exclusivity also might create hesitation for people to get tested which could potentially delay treatment for people who might need it to prevent hepatitis B from progressing to something more serious like cirrhosis, fibrosis, or liver cancer.
In some cultures, hepatitis B is viewed as a punishment from a supernatural force. People living with hepatitis B who believe this might feel a burden and shame and will not share their status. This belief also perpetuates hesitation for people to access testing and treatment.
However, hepatitis B is NOT transmitted casually, no one is to blame for hepatitis B, and people who have hepatitis B deserve the same opportunities to live fulfilling lives – at work, at home, and in the community.
Are You Feeling Isolated?
If you are feeling isolated from your community, family, other individuals, etc., there are support groups you can join! Hep B Community is a global online support group dedicated to connecting people affected by hepatitis B with one another and with verified experts in the field, who provide trustworthy and accurate advice.
On this day let’s celebrate Human Rights Day and take action to improve equality, inclusivity, and non-discrimination. Here are some resources:
Did you know the Hepatitis B Foundation has a Discrimination Registry?
The Hepatitis B Foundation is working to document discrimination related to hepatitis B through its Hepatitis B Discrimination Registry. If you experienced hepatitis B discrimination, you can take action and report it through the Registry Survey.
The Hepatitis B Foundation also has a page dedicated for people experiencing discrimination in the United States. Check out what to do if you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace, military, and schools and institutions
If you are experiencing discrimination and would like some advice email firstname.lastname@example.org
Author: Evangeline Wang