Community groups raise awareness for World Hepatitis Day in Chinatown
By Phoenix Tso
Volunteers and attendees gathered at a cordoned-off circle in front of the Boston Chinatown Gate on July 28. They donned magenta, orange or blue t-shirts, each enacting one of three parts of “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”
The phrase was underscored by Cambridge City Councilor Minka Van Beuzekom’s statement on Hepatitis B and C: “We want to see this epidemic, hear it – even though it’s silent, and we want to speak about it.” After that, everybody either covered their eyes, ears or mouths, depending on which t-shirt they were wearing. The participants were documented by a videographer and photographer for entry into the Guinness Book of World Records.
This event was part of World Hepatitis Day. About 12,000 people gathered worldwide last year to raise awareness for hepatitis B and C, setting a one-day record for actions against the disease. Breaking the 2012 record was the goal of this year’s event in Boston, along with bringing information about hepatitis testing to Boston’s Chinatown community. Hepatitis B and C are “silent diseases” because of their lack of symptoms.
“We want people to know that this is a specific health issue that affects this specific population disproportionately,” said Melissa Wong, chairwoman of the board of directors for Massachusetts Asian Pacific Islanders for Health. MAP for Health organized the event with Quest Diagnostics, and the Harvard, MIT, and Brown chapters of Team HBV.
Quest Diagnostics’ Salim Kabawat said, “There are 500 million people around the world who are infected with Hepatitis B and C, but most don’t know this, because there are no symptoms. If untreated, hepatitis can cause cancer and cirrhosis of the liver.”
Hepatitis is caused by a variety of viruses. In the Asian Pacific population, most hepatitis B infections occur from the mother to child at birth. While most American children are vaccinated for Hepatitis B at elementary school age, a significant amount of Asian Pacific immigrants arrive in this country after that time, and therefore miss an important opportunity for immunization. As a result, MAP for Health and Quest Diagnostics provided the diagnostic and treatment advice services, while Team HBV spread the word.
Along with their performance, volunteers set up a tent with English and Chinese pamphlets and water. Attendees were invited to paint a mural for the South Cove Community Health Center. Many Chinatown residents paused from their morning games, walks or conversations to look on, sipping their coffees or taking drags off their cigarettes.
You can reach Phoenix Tso on Twitter @Legallyphoenix
This post is also available in: Chinese