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A great HEP Hero: Dandenong Mayor reveals his personal story

31 August 2018

Greater Dandenong Mayor, Youhorn Chea, has received the title of ‘HEP Hero” from Hepatitis Victoria, the peak body in the state advocating on behalf of people living with viral hepatitis.

“HEP Hero” is an accolade given to people who have volunteered to help raise awareness and fight discrimination against people living with viral hepatitis. To date, over 50 people have become HEP Heroes, hailing from all walks of life; health professionals, researchers, mothers, fathers, and even a Nobel Prize winner.

Youhorn is the current Mayor for Greater Dandenong having served as a Councillor since 1997. He is also the President of the Cambodian Association of Victoria and former President of the Australian Cambodian Federation.

“Taking leadership in liver health is very important. As the Greater Dandenong Mayor and a Hep C sufferer, I’m hoping by sharing my story I can reach out to the wider community to help them understand the seriousness of this disease and the treatment options available,” Youhorn said.

Youhorn's advocacy is timely as the prevalence of chronic hepatitis B in Greater Dandenong is the second highest in Victoria, and reports of chronic hepatitis C are twice the rate of the state average. Added to these statistics is the fact that liver disease often remains hidden and undetected.

“I am a widowed Father of 4 with 6 grandchildren. My late wife, Uchchara was a carrier of Hep B and I have successfully received treatment for Hep C.

"When the Khmer Rouge took power in Cambodia, my family was sent to the concentration camp where we were forced to carry out hard labour. We were hungry and thirsty and very hot.

"Years later when my family arrived safely in Australia, I was tested and diagnosed with Hep C. Through treatment and ongoing monitoring, I have been given the all clear. I’m one of the lucky ones. Every day for as long as I can remember, I focus on being as healthy as I can,” he said.

“There is a stigma surrounding viral hepatitis that prevents people from talking to their families, getting tested or treated, or seeking support.

“By educating communities, we encourage them to make lifestyle choices to improve their health, protect their liver and help prevent serious liver damage, prevent viral transmission to others, and most importantly to seek treatment,” Youhorn said.

“Don't delay seeing your Doctor. Blood tests can determine whether you have viral hepatitis, and if so, which kind. The sooner you get tested, the sooner you can take steps to protect yourself and others” Youhorn added.

Mayor Youhorn Chea, HEP Hero

 

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