World Hepatitis Day: 7,000 balloons for better understanding

World Hepatitis Day: 7,000 balloons for better understanding

Vienna, July 28th, 2014

Statistic data show that approximately 60,000 to 80,000 people in Austria suffer from Hepatitis C, a viral disease affecting the liver that is still largely treated as a taboo. In order to increase awareness for the disease and the situation of those affected, this morning, on the occasion of the 7th World Hepatitis Day, representatives of the Hepatitis Help Organization Austria, physicians and Federal Minister Hundstorfer released 7,000 balloons with personal messages on the Kaiserwiese in the Vienna Prater.

7,000 pieces – an unprecedented number of blue and white balloons – flew up into the sky above the City of Vienna. The messages had been written by the participants themselves:

  • You can protect yourself from the Hepatitis C virus! It can only be transmitted by direct blood-to-blood contact.
  • Look for the seal of quality of Hepatitis Hilfe Österreich (HHÖ) when getting pierced, being tattooed or when at the pedicure.
  • HHÖ is an important point of contact when diagnosed with Hepatitis C.
  • Hepatitis C can be cured!
  • The sooner Hepatitis C is diagnosed, the sooner it can be cured.
  • Untreated Hepatitis C can lead to liver cancer or liver transplantation.
  • We want to move Hepatitis C out of its taboo zone. More education for ALL people!
  • We ALL need to act against discrimination of Hepatitis C patients!
  • Hepatitis: “Think again”, inform yourself, protect yourself, get tested!

Rudolf Hundstorfer, Federal Minister of Labor, Social Affairs and Consumer Protection: “The Hepatitis Help Organization Austria acts full of commitment as an advocate for the concerns of those affected by Hepatitis C diseases. They are experts whenever the needs of patients suffering from such diseases have to be addressed and discussed. Today we all want to join our efforts to move the disease Hepatitis C out of its taboo zone.“

Angelika Widhalm, chairwoman of the Hepatitis Help Organization Austria (Hepatitis Hilfe Österreich – HHÖ): ”Hepatitis C is still subject to lots of prejudices and to stigma. Many of those affected do not even know that they have been infected with hepatitis C and if they do, they often do not talk about it at all. We have got an enormous backlog demand in awareness-raising activities in the population – that is what we as the Hepatitis Help Organization Austria are working at and what we need all the support by the medical profession and politicians for.“

Prim. Prof. Ludwig Kramer, Hospital Hietzing: ”Liver diseases do not show symptoms to those affected for a long time – and when diagnosed the liver will often already have been severely damaged. Elevated liver values are an indication, but often they are not further clarified. It is of great importance that specialists clarify potential causes for those elevated values and apply treatment. Especially the treatment of Hepatitis C has been revolutionized. Today close to 100% can be cured with almost no side-effects. However, society needs to find a solution for those costly new therapies. Today´s World Hepatitis Day should raise awareness on the enormous progress made in this stigmatized disease. We want to also show that in Austria thousands of patients are waiting for an efficient therapy.

In Austria, hepatitis C is still a disease that even people in the patient’s closest environment do not talk about a lot or not at all. Those affected are full of fear of being discriminated against as hepatitis C and the accompanying hepatic impairment with all its secondary complications are still very often wrongly associated with alcohol and drug abuse. Hepatitis C may affect ANYBODY or may already have affected any person without his or her knowing about it. So the motto is: HEPATITIS – THINK AGAIN, inform yourself, protect yourself, get tested. Hepatitis C can be cured!

Photos by: © Katharina Schiffl 2014

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For further press inquiries: Angelika Widhalm