Artist and Aboriginal Wellbeing Worker
"I am a Hep Hero because knowledge is power and everyone should have a voice."
I work at the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation in the sexual health and blood borne viruses team. I previously worked in Redfern with people who inject drugs as an outreach worker at the Redfern Needle Syringe Program.
I was drawn to these areas as I witnessed first hand the marginalization that people who use drugs often experience. This is particularly so in Aboriginal communities, where there is a lot of shame associated with drug use.
These groups are often uncared for and I wanted to give them a voice and advocate for those who weren’t being heard.
Hepatitis disproportionately affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Hepatitis C is found at more than twice the rate as for the wider community and, in some areas, can be up to six times higher.
The same can be said for hepatitis B, with 16% of chronic hepatitis B infections occurring in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples.
There are many in our community who have been let down by the system. They don’t have the information they need to make informed decisions.
Many are not aware of the risks and only find out about hepatitis and other blood borne viruses once they have contracted them. Once they do, they find it difficult to confront their viruses as they fear of being judged and shamed.
We need to remind people that people who have hepatitis are brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers – they are all people. We must stop judging the how the virus is contracted and focus on the people behind it.