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28 July 2022
On July 28 each year, World Hepatitis Day brings the world together to raise awareness of viral hepatitis and to influence real change.
"I can’t wait" is the new campaign theme to launch World Hepatitis Day 2022. It highlights the need to accelerate the fight against viral hepatitis and the importance of testing and treatment.
Sam Dickson is a Clinical Nurse Consultant at the Austin Liver Clinic and is an outreach nurse, working at Austin Health since 2020.
Her hepatitis nurse career started back in 2002 in Canberra where she was running the first trials of the Hepatitis C treatment.
"Infectious deceases have been my thing for a long time. Back in the day, the treatment for Hepatitis C was harsh, with low success rate, but then new treatments came in 2016 which were simple and effective," she said.
Sam describes viral hepatitis as a silent disease.
"If you are not tested, you don't know and if you don't know, you can't address the problem. We have noticed a massive downturn in people being tested during the pandemic, and that is why I would like to encourage people to test," she added.
Sam explains risk factors and demographics guide testing, however, her personal take is that in a lifetime, a person should be tested at least once in their healthcare journey. While there is no cure for Hepatitis B, it can be controlled and managed, a chronic Hepatitis C has a simple, effective treatment with a 95-98% cure rate.
"There is a lot of stigma experienced by those living with viral hepatitis. We need to be compassionate and provide healthcare free of judgment and discrimination", she explained.
Sam would like for everyone, including healthcare workers, to be mindful of the language they use and the assumptions they make about viral hepatitis. Anyone, including family, friends, colleagues may be affected.
Austin Health’s Liver Transplant Unit has found that 84 per cent of all liver transplants are preventable, with the vast majority being due to Hepatitis B and C.
"Liver cancer is the most rapidly rising cancer in Australia and this is largely due to viral hepatitis. We all have a role to play in eliminating the stigma and discrimination that results in patients living with hepatitis avoiding or delaying healthcare. When the opportunity arises, it is crucial we all ask the question, screen for hepatitis B and C and offer avenues to treatment and ongoing care," said Christopher Leung, Gastroenterologist at Austin Health.