• The tying together of Hepatitis C with injecting drug use is creating a large stigma.
Research conducted by the University of New South Wales has revealed the stigma associated with Hepatitis C is claiming the lives of Aboriginal people.
By
Tara Callinan

Source:
NITV News
21 Feb 2014 - 4:44 PM  UPDATED 21 Feb 2014 - 7:04 PM

Indigenous Australians are almost three times more likely to contract Hepatitis C than the rest of the population.

Research conducted by the University of New South Wales reveals the stigma associated with the blood-borne virus is claiming the lives of Aboriginal people.

"The tying together of Hepatitis C with injecting drug use creates a large stigma for everybody who lives with Hepatitis C," said Professor Carla Treloar form the University of Sydney.

The study's Aboriginal advisor, Clair Jackson explained the shame surrounding the debilitating disease.

"A shame factor comes in because a lot of people in the communities always think it means injecting drug use. But then there's the craze for tattooing, and you can get a tattoo kit off eBay for twenty or thirty bucks," said Ms Jackson.

Many people don't realize you can get Hepatitis C from a dirty tattoo needle and Ms Jackson says telling stories like these will eliminate this unnecessary sense of shame for sufferers in the community.

Increasing incarceration rates among the Aboriginal population are also contributing to the prevalence of Hepatitis C.

Of the 200 Aboriginal people surveyed, 80 per cent had already been to prison at some stage in their lives.

As a result, researchers are calling for safer injecting practices to be employed in prisons across the country.

"We know that injecting drug use occurs in prison and we know that drugs and equipment are available. But in Australia there is no program to provide sterile injecting equipment to prisoners," said Ms Treloar.

There are currently only three prisons in New South Wales, for example, that offer inmates external treatment for Hepatitis C.