It begins with a diagnosis. That is the pivotal factor in keeping hepatitis B, a ‘silent’ liver disease that attacks the liver for 20-40 years, from causing those affected by it to develop cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure.
With this in mind, the Canadian Liver Foundation (CLF) proudly partnered in launching HepBeware screening project, a free initiative that provides hepatitis B blood tests to those in Vancouver’s rapidly growing Asian/South Asian communities.
Hepatitis B’s burden is felt heavily by those of Asian/South Asian descent, where three-quarters of carriers are born. While an estimated 350,000 Canadians are affected by hepatitis B—there is no telling how many Asian-Canadians have been unknowingly living with this disease, and for how long.
Spearheaded by CLF-BC Board President Dr. Francis Ho, and GI specialist/hepatologist at the Vancouver General Hospital, Dr. Peter Kwan, HepBeware is the first of its kind in Canada. The project requires the cooperation of physicians, nurses and volunteers to help provide an immediate diagnosis to those unaware that they’ve been living with chronic hepatitis B.
“This project is the first step forward towards my dream that one day there will be no hepatitis B in the world,” says Dr. Ho.
In 2018, the HepBeware screening project has tested over 2000 willing participants in 29 public locations such as community centres, churches, malls and schools. Once tested, those found to be hepatitis B positive will be directed to their family doctors for a follow up in order to streamline the treatment process and to keep patients feeling informed and comfortable.
Two other major components of the HepBeware project are the awareness and advocacy for vaccinations and earlier diagnoses; which can lead to earlier treatments and eventually, can save lives.
“Other than being a research project, this is also a community awareness effort to get people to talk about and hopefully break some of the stigmas around hepatitis B,” says Monica Chui, CLF Director of Regional Business Development in Western Canada. “Because of HepBeware, we have seen more people in the Vancouver community join our STROLL for LIVER and our LIVERight Health Forum”.
The project is currently working to extend its scope into diverse Asian communities, focusing on those from mainland China, Hong Kong and the Philippines.
“Through media exposure and word-of-mouth, we are continuing to see more and more attendance at our events in different Vancouver-area Asian communities,” says Monica.
The CLF would like to thank Vancouver-area philanthropists Mr. and Mrs. Sonny and Florence Leong and corporate donor, the Vancouver Bullion Currency Exchange, for continuing to show their commitment to liver health by making this project possible.