NSW Health launches online campaign to lift awareness about Hepatitis C

06 May 2014

NSW Health, in association with Hepatitis NSW and media company VICE, have launched a compelling online campaign aimed at raising awareness and dispelling common perceptions about hepatitis C transmission, prevention, risks and what it is like to live with the disease.

Dr Jo Mitchell, Director for the NSW Centre for Population Health, said that hepatitis C is a significant public health issue and is one of the most commonly reported notified diseases in Australia. It is the biggest driver of demand for liver transplantation.

"It’s now been 25 years since hepatitis C was first formally identified. The disease affects more than 230,000 Australians, but fewer than two per cent receive treatment each year. In 2012, 3290 people in NSW were diagnosed with hepatitis C."

"The NSW Health Hepatitis C campaign ‘Enter the Party’ video aims to make people aged 18 to 24 years aware about the transmission and prevention of hepatitis C" Dr Mitchell said.

The award winning "Enter the Party" video was first launched online in 2012. It was recognised at the Global Festival of Media for its innovative approach to tackling the blood borne virus transmission risks associated with injecting drug use.

"In a party environment, people are faced with choices. This campaign is about keeping those choices safe so that one night of fun doesn’t have lifelong consequences."

"Contracting this disease can occur from something as simple as shaving a friend’s head or using a DIY tattoo or piercing kit. You could be left with more than just a bad tattoo" Dr Mitchell said.

The online video campaign targets young people 18 – 24 years of age through social media channels. Today it will be launched alongside a documentary produced by VICE Media entitled "Life is Different Now. A Frank Discussion about Living with Hep C."

Opi is one of 4 young people living with hepatitis C who features in the documentary, openly discussing her diagnosis, personal experience and the stigma associated with the disease.

"I was diagnosed a few years ago. It is important for me to share my experience to help people think twice before making decisions which could put them at risk of contracting hepatitis C" Opi said.

Hepatitis NSW Chief Executive Officer, Stuart Loveday, said the documentary was developed to support the compelling NSW Health "Enter the Party" campaign and is an important resource in educating people about behaviours which could put them at risk of contracting hepatitis C, encouraging them to consider the consequences.

"Hepatitis C is both preventable and curable. We hope this online campaign will help challenge the stigma associated with the disease and support people living with hep C to have their liver health assessed and to consider treatment."

"The documentary is compelling viewing. It covers the ordinary aspects of living with hepatitis C including testing, diagnosis, disclosure, stigma, discrimination, relationships, treatment and management of the condition" Mr Loveday said.

VICE who produced the documentary in association with NSW Health, welcomed the opportunity to be involved in the project.

"Our aim was to highlight this disease to people aged 18-24. We felt that humanising the issue through first hand experiences giving insight into the lives, reactions, relationships, treatment, and hopes for the future of people diagnosed with hepatitis C was a powerful way to do this" said VICE Editor Royce Akers.

It is estimated that 90,000 people in NSW are living with hepatitis C.

The majority of infections are acquired through sharing or re-using unsterile drug injecting equipment.

Hepatitis C can also be transmitted through other blood to blood contact such as contaminated equipment used in home tattooing and body piercing, sharing razors or toothbrushes and in rare cases unprotected sexual activity where blood is present.

"Young people often think they are invincible. Hepatitis C is spread through blood to blood contact and primarily affects the liver." Dr Mitchell said.

NSW Health supports several projects to reduce the spread of infectious diseases such as hepatitis C, including the Needle and Syringe Program, a successful evidence based public health program.

NSW was the first state to introduce a Needle and Syringe Program in 1986. This has helped prevent thousands of people from sharing injecting equipment, in turn reducing the spread of diseases such as HIV and hepatitis C among people who inject drugs and in the wider community.

The Enter the Party video and the "Life is Different Now. A Frank Discussion about Living with Hep C." documentary can be viewed at http://hepc.health.nsw.gov.au/

Information on hepatitis C can be found at the following links:
NSW Health: http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/Hepatitis_C.aspx
Hepatitis NSW: www.hep.org.au/