Changing the world, from New Zealand

Hep C Action Aotearoa is a small group with big ideas. Responding to the crippling stigma that surrounds the now curable infectious disease, they are calling for a 180-degree change in attitudes

“Stigma is a killer. ‘Hepsters’ are shunned and shamed, for accidentally contracting a virus. The result is that half the people who have it do not know (and) are not getting tested,” said Hazel Heal, HCAA’s lead advocate.

Hep C is slow-acting but deadly. About 40 percent of people needing a transplant in New Zealand aren’t aware they are even sick until that point is reached.

Hazel Heal, lead advocate, Hep C Action Aotearoa
Heal’s group has come up with an audacious response. Noting the success of HIV’s red ribbon campaign in raising awareness, they are calling for the adoption of their butterfly symbol as the global image for hep C elimination. The ‘butterfly effect’ combined with the attractive, positive rainbow colours was the idea behind the design, drawn by First Nations American artist Marty 2 Bulls. Hazel kicked off the butterfly campaign in New Zealand by having it tattooed on her arm.

“It is taking off,” said Heal. “We have distributed thousands of lapel pins internationally, run a national poster campaign, got a lot of interest and support from international researchers and clinicians. The New Zealand Hepatitis Foundation supports our action and we are happy to see NoHep, of the World Hepatitis Alliance, profiling us this month in its Supporter Spotlight.”

Hep C Action will promote the butterfly symbol at major conferences throughout 2019.

“Everyone will recognise it,” Hazel says. “Shame just slides off this image. People are already in a positive frame of mind when they ask what it is. This is the 180-degree shift we are looking for. It has been all so dark and hopeless until recently. Now the news is good, recovery and cure are within reach for most, and being well is a whole new lease on life.”

* Media release supplied by Hep C Action Aotearoa.

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© The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand 2016