Day puts focus on hepatitis

SARAH ARGYLE
Last updated 05:00 24/07/2013

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Honesty and openness are the key to a strong relationship.

But for one man finding out his partner didn't hold those same values cost him more than just his relationship - it cost him his health.

A Howick resident, who does not want to be named, contracted hepatitis B from his partner 17 years ago.

"I went for a routine health check. I hadn't been feeling sick at all. I led a very healthy lifestyle so it was a bit of a surprise."

The now 40-year-old returned home to break the news to his partner.

Only it wasn't news to his partner who already knew he too had the disease and had not told him.

"It was quite devastating when he did say he had it."

But despite the diagnosis, the Howick resident hasn't let the disease dictate the course of his life.

"It's just something I have to deal with. I don't think of hepatitis as a disease and really, apart from regular liver function tests to monitor the condition, it doesn't impact my life.

"I'm not on any medication for it so I just live life normally."

He has only shared his situation with his immediate family and current partner because of the stigma attached to the disease.

"Society isn't fully educated so by telling more people who don't know about hepatitis they just worry about themselves contracting the virus and worry that being in contact with me will cause them to catch it too."

He has a message for fellow hepatitis B sufferers: "The important thing if you do have hepatitis is to go for regular checks."

The Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand is using World Hepatitis Day on Sunday as an opportunity to educate New Zealanders about chronic hepatitis and to urge people to get tested if they are at risk.

There are about 100,000 people living with chronic hepatitis B - the main cause of liver cancer in New Zealand. If you are over 25, of Maori, Pacific Island or Asian ethnicity, have a mother or close family member with hepatitis or live with someone who has hepatitis it is very important you get checked.

Call 0800 33 20 10 or visit hepatitisfoundation.org.nz.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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