Every Yarn Counts In Hepatitis C

Courtesy of Burnet Institute

The Every Yarn Counts campaign seeks to normalise discussions about hepatitis C in the community.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are disproportionately represented in hepatitis C cases, largely driven by social factors including poverty, lack of access to culturally safe health services, incarceration, and intergenerational trauma.

Although hepatitis C rates are steadily declining across Australia, this trend is not reflected in Aboriginal populations, where the need for accelerated treatment remains critical.

The Every Yarn Counts campaign seeks to normalise discussions about hepatitis C in the community, eliminating barriers, stigma, and misconceptions associated with the disease and encouraging people to get tested and treated.

“Aboriginal people are being left behind because they aren’t receiving the necessary treatment,” said Troy Combo, Bundjalung man and program manager of Burnet Institute’s Aboriginal Health Plan.

“Hepatitis C is curable. There is no shame in being treated, and treatment is now easier and more accessible.”

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that causes liver damage. It can often take many years for people with hepatitis C to notice symptoms, and, if left untreated, hepatitis C can cause substantial liver damage, liver failure or death. Harm minimisation, health education programs and access to sterile injecting equipment are key to eliminating hepatitis C by 2030.

When Peta Walker tested positive for hepatitis C, she wasn’t ready to face her new reality.

The Bundjalung woman said people fear what they don’t understand. Before getting treatment, she needed someone to help her process her diagnosis.

“I had the virus, but I wasn’t ready to get treated,” she said.

“I needed someone to sit down with me and honestly say, ‘I understand where you’re at and this is part of the process’. It’s important to have open conversations, but also to have support and education.”

The campaign is being implemented by a network of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services across the country, to reach people in their communities. It was co-designed for the community, by the community.

Dr Dawn Casey, Deputy CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) said the campaign will empower Aboriginal people to take charge of their health.

“Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations are best placed to deliver hepatitis C education, harm minimisation and health promotion to ensure culturally safe and responsive care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples nationally,” she said.

“The co-design of Every Yarn Counts ensures the campaign is tackling the issue head-on without the shame or stigma often associated with hepatitis C.”

A national reference group was involved in the co-design process and comprised members from Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations State Aboriginal health and medical research councils and the Eliminate Hepatitis C Partnership Australia team at Burnet Institute.

For more, visit www.everyyarncounts.com.au/

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