I've had an interesting week, with both my abstracts accepted for inclusion at the National Hepatitis Health Promotion Conference in Brisbane next month.
As I said last week, the conference theme is Joining the Dots for Successful Health Promotion. With that theme in mind, my friend Pam and I created a whimsical poster filled with brightly coloured dots for the peer-support website HepCAustralasia. We placed the logos for the hepatitis groups and organisations in Australia (and the World Hepatitis Alliance) inside the dots, and intend to provide whiteboard markers and blu-tack so conference delegates can 'claim a dot' and add their contact details or business card as well. We are hoping this will create a buzz in the poster area, as we meet and network with delegates and promote the site.
I was also accepted for an oral presentation which we called Living with chronic hepatitis C or B: Showcasing differences and raising awareness through shared personal stories. My friend Yvonne and I are planning to share our stories, hers with chronic hepatitis B and mine with hepatitis C, to give a personal touch to the Health Promotion side of things. Both of us strongly believe that being open with our experiences helps to dispel the stigma many people experience due to these illnesses.
Last night the HEPConcert in Sydney took place to promote awareness of Hepatitis C. Attracting some big headline acts, this and the concert in Adelaide last week represented new and exciting ways to bring hepatitis C into the public eye in a positive way. Congratulations to the concert organisers for their huge efforts in producing these events.
I also attended a Hepatitis C Support Group meeting this week. As far as I know there has not been a support group in Cairns, where I live, for at least 5 years. Many people report that support groups struggle to attract participants, as people with hep C, especially when they are on treatment, are often reluctant to socialize. This group meeting was quite a success though, with 8 people participating. We heard some interesting stories and some sad stories, with one young woman about to become homeless when her landlady evicted her on learning about her hep C. Such discrimination is, of course, illegal but difficult to prove. This woman told the group that this was the first time she had ever spoken to anyone else with hep C. She found it extremely liberating as her burden of isolation was lifted.
Public disclosure is not for everyone because unfortunately there is still much stigma and discrimination around. But these conferences, public concerts and support groups go a long way toward breaking down the stigma, as people realize they are not alone.
Have a great week!