The prevalence of Hepatitis C is higher in British South Asian communities (1.1%) vs the wider UK population (0.2). So, this World Hepatitis Day (28th July 2022) the Hep C, Ki? campaign, which has been developed and funded by Gilead Sciences, raised awareness of the risk factors for contracting hepatitis C, specific to British South Asian communities.
Backed by the NHS and the Hepatitis C Trust, the disease awareness programme is calling on those who might be at risk to get tested for hepatitis C.
The Hep C, Ki? campaign was launched in 2021 in response to a drop in hepatitis C testing by 30% in British South Asian communities. The unconventional comedy approach features top British South Asian comedians Eshaan Akbar, Sukh Ojla and Ali Official. You can check out the series of comedy videos below – we can also share assets if you wish to use them on your channels.
Former patient and hepatitis C expert Shabana Begum, South Asian Outreach Officer at The Hepatitis C Trust visited her GP in 2004, after years of experiencing tiredness and mood swings; following several rounds of tests she was diagnosed and treated for hepatitis C. She was one of the 50% of people living with the virus without knowing she had it. In the course of her treatment, Shabana experienced stigma from some people in her community due to some of the misconceptions about how hepatitis is transmitted. She believes she had been living with hepatitis C since she was 13-year-old and caught the virus whilst undergoing medical treatment in Pakistan, where she lived as a young woman in the 1980s.
Speaking to Asian Voice, Shaban Begum said, “When I was 13 my dad took me on a trip to visit family in Pakistan. During the trip, I fell ill and so he took me to see a local doctor. The doctor gave me some medication and an injection – after this, I saw the needle had been taken from a ( dirty metal container) contaminated bin with dirty water pooled at the bottom of it. I was very young so wasn’t worried and not knowledgeable enough to be worried about any side effects, a little worried but didn’t have any immediate side effects so thought nothing of it.”
When asked how much she and her family knew about Hepatitis C, she said, “We really didn’t know much about Hepatitis C – there was (and still is) a lot of misinformation about the virus within British South Asian communities with many associating the virus with stigmatised activities, such as sex and drug use. When I told my mum that I had been diagnosed with hepatitis C she told me that I shouldn’t tell anyone because it was either passed from husband to wife as a sexually transmitted infection, or I had done something shameful to catch the virus.”
This is where the Hep C, Ki campaign, created by Gilead and supported by the Hepatitis C Trust and NHS England, comes in – as it uses comedy to help break down some of the barriers that exist when trying to talk about a taboo subject like hepatitis C.
Sharing her thoughts on what she thinks South Asians need to learn about Hep C in order to fight the stigma around it, Shabana Begum said, “I think British South Asians need to learn that if you have spent time in India, Bangladesh or Pakistan at any time in your life – as a child or an adult, as a resident or a regular visitor then you might be at risk of hepatitis C. What’s more, risk factors for hepatitis C can include common everyday practices when overseas, such as receiving medical, dental or cosmetic treatment (including vaccinations) using unsterilised equipment, blood transfusions and even equipment used by hairdressers or beauticians – such as nail scissors, clippers and razors – can pose a small risk if not effectively sterilised between customers.”
“If someone thinks they could have come into contact with the hepatitis C virus, they shouldn’t wait until they feel unwell to get tested. If you test positive for Hepatitis C, treatment involves taking tablets daily for 8 to 12 weeks. The treatment is usually easy to take with few side effects. Once treatment is complete, over 95% of people are cured,” she added.
According to her, one must inform themselves about Hepatitis C and its risk factors by visiting the Hepatitis C Trust’s website. Secondly, Begum urged that one must speak to their family members about Hepatitis C – in particular, their parents or grandparents if they grew up in South Asia as they may be at risk without knowing it. Having these conversations can be tricky, so consider sharing the Hep C, Ki comedy videos with them as a way to gently approach the subject.