A music CD is being launched to raise awareness of hepatitis C within the South Asian community and tackle the stigma related to the virus so as to encourage those at risk to seek help and support.
With emerging evidence showing that people from a South Asian background may have a higher prevalence of hepatitis C infection than the general population in this country, the CD aims to improve understanding of how the virus is transmitted, diagnosed, treated and prevented.
‘My Story’ has been created by the Department of Health’s FaCe It campaign and features advice from healthcare professionals and an interview conducted by TV health presenter Yasmin Qureshi with Shabana Begum, a Pakistani woman who recounts her experience of hepatitis C. The CD also features music from popular Asian artists.
Dr Shahid Khan, Consultant Physician within the Department of Hepatology and Gastroenterology at St Mary's Hospital and Hammersmith Hospital in London believes it is vital to raise awareness within the South Asian community:
"As medical professionals, we should be on the lookout for people who may have unknowingly been exposed to the risk of hepatitis C. This community is one area to focus on. Many people may have visited back street barbers where razors are shared, or undergone medical care abroad, or may have shared ear and nose piercing equipment, which could be contaminated with infected blood. This CD is a great tool to communicate with the South Asian community and enables us to meet the stigma attached to the virus head on."
‘My Story’ has been recorded in both English and Urdu and will be distributed through Asian businesses, organisations and melas during the summer as part of a pilot project. The CD will be supported by information leaflets, which are available in a range of languages.
Dr Kiran Patel, Chairman of Trustees for the South Asian Health Foundation, believes this is a positive step in the right direction:
"I hope 'My Story' will encourage more Asian people to consider whether they may have been at risk of contracting hepatitis C and to get themselves tested. By highlighting Shabana's experience, a real sense of reality is added, and hopefully this will motivate and inspire others within the community to come forward."
It is estimated that around 200,000 people in England have hepatitis C and of this number, the majority are probably unaware of their condition since many experience no symptoms for a number of years. If undetected, hepatitis C can develop into cirrhosis or even liver cancer, and in a small proportion of cases, can be fatal.
Launched in December 2004, the Department of Health’s hepatitis C awareness campaign ‘FaCe It’ aims to raise awareness of the virus and its prevention, diagnosis and treatment, while tackling the stigma, which is often attached to it. Further information on hepatitis C is available on the campaign website, which can be found at www.hepc.nhs.uk
The public can also call the Hepatitis C Information Line on 0800 451 451 (textphone 0800 0850859) from 7am-11pm, 7 days a week for confidential information and advice.