Department of Gastroenterology, Austin Hospital
“I am a Hep Hero because there is an urgent need to raise awareness of hepatitis and its enormous impact on diverse communities in our multicultural society.”
My name is Christopher Leung and I am a hepatologist and also vice-president of the Australian Chinese Medical Association of Victoria (ACMAV), an association of medical practitioners of Chinese background or interest.
Through the ACMAV’s educational, charitable and social activities, we provide a forum for its members to interact on a professional and personal level, while focusing on the health needs of the local Chinese and broader communities.
We also work with multiple organisations including Hepatitis Victoria, the anti-cancer council of Victoria and NSW as well as the Chinese Cancer Council of Victoria. We are particularly concerned about the increasing problem of unrecognized viral hepatitis in Australia.
Viral hepatitis is a complex and multifaceted issue which impacts on a diverse range of communities. Of particular concern is hepatitis B, which in Australia disproportionately impacts on people from Asian backgrounds.
As someone who is part of the Chinese community as well as the broader Australian community, I am passionate about raising awareness of hepatitis B in our multicultural society.
In fact, liver cancer is the most rapidly rising cancer in Australia largely due to viral hepatitis. Chronic hepatitis B mainly affects migrant communities, including Asians, Indians and Africans where one in ten people from these communities have hepatitis B. Affected people have usually acquired their disease at birth and often have no symptoms until it is too late.
Despite this, only 30% of people with chronic hepatitis B are aware of their status leading to poor outcomes. There is a general lack of awareness in the community that hepatitis B causes no symptoms and can lead to liver scarring (cirrhosis) and liver cancer. The consequences have been devastating. Liver cancer is now the 9th most common cancer in Australia and 25% of patients who are diagnosed with hepatitis B die from their disease if not managed early enough. With appropriate treatment, 97% survive.
We recently participated in an educational DVD filmed by the rural health education foundation sponsored by the Department of Health and Ageing and these videos can be found at here
I believe in the power of raising awareness of this preventable disease. Indeed, there is not only a vaccine for hepatitis B that is available for people at risk, but very effective treatments available for those who have the virus. I also see the importance about reducing stigma for people who are already living with hepatitis, through utilising a range of strategies. Remember, liver cancer from hepatitis B is one of the most preventable cancers in the world!