"I'm a HEP Hero with Hepatitis Victoria because I wanted to raise awareness and have conversations with people, because ignorance is the opposite of bliss."
Growing up in the Philippines, hepatitis was always something your parents warned you about, along the lines of “don’t eat street food, you’ll get hepatitis”. I don’t remember ever being told what hepatitis was, so I just assumed it was a strain of gastro and avoided street food.
It wasn’t until I moved to Australia and started a public health degree that I learned about viral hepatitis, how it could be transmitted, and the ongoing stigma attached to people living with them.
Learning about the kinds of stigma attached to diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis was a shock, because they forced me to confront the prejudices in the society I grew up in.
Of course, these attitudes aren’t exclusive to Southeast Asia. Stigma against people who contract diseases that are closely associated with marginalised groups such as drug users and sex workers (we can talk about how wrong it is to judge these groups of people another time) exist everywhere, even in the most politically “awake” areas of Melbourne.
SInce signing up to be a volunteer with Hepatitis Victoria I’ve generated conversations at the Lunar New Year festival in Springvale, and helped bring the community together for 25 years of Hepatitis Victoria.
The work I’m most proud of has been helping to organise the world launch of Little Hep B Hero book.
The group of parent-authors clearly put their hearts into writing the story, and I was thrilled to work with Hepatitis Victoria staff to make their book and the accompanying animation reach the widest possible audience.