“I am a Hep Hero because I am passionate about working with people who inject drugs - the group in the community who have been most impacted by viral hepatitis over the past 21 years.”
I believe that by actively working with those most affected and doing this in the spaces where they spend time, especially street drug markets away from many health and welfare workers, are we able to engage and communicate.
It is in these environments where they are most likely to listen and seek support on their own terms. By providing health related information as well as supporting people in their decisions to improve their health we are well on the way to reducing the impact of viral hepatitis on this community.
I have been involved with Hepatitis Victoria for 15 years, 6 of those years as a Board member. I have a background in community development and have worked with marginalised populations for over 20 years in Melbourne, Sydney, Vietnam, Indonesia and China.
My focus in the research field has been on blood borne virus transmission among people who inject drugs.
I am a research fellow with the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University where I have been involved in various studies of cohorts of injecting drug users in Melbourne.
In my role as the President of the Hepatitis Victoria Board I was passionate about improving the way we communicate to at risk communities as well as raising awareness of hepatitis in both government and public arenas.
Globally, it is estimated that 170 million people are infected with hepatitis C and the burden of disease associated with hepatitis C is considerable.
In developed countries, the main group at risk of hepatitis C infection are people who inject drugs, with the majority of new infections attributed to injecting drug use (Australia: 90 percent, UK: 90 percent).
Globally, the prevalence of hepatitis C infection among people who inject drugs is estimated to be extremely high, much higher than the prevalence of HIV, with approximately 10 million people who inject drugs estimated to be infected with hepatitis C currently or to have been infected with hepatitis C in the past.
In order to address these alarming figures we must speak out and look at new ways to communicate with those most at risk.
We must increase our knowledge about people who inject drugs and its health and social effects. This is the only way we can identify ways to prevent or reduce the severity of health and social outcomes through policy and practice.