Hepatitis C and the Australian News Media: A Case of 'Bad Blood'
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Nursing, Midwifery and Postgraduate Medicine
As the producer of community education resources and editor of the newsletter for the Hepatitis Council of Western Australia (HCWA) from 1997 to 2003, I was concerned about media representations of people living with hepatitis C. Recognizing that the news media represent one of the most common sources of medical and health-related information for patients (Newnham et al. 2005; Van Der Weyden and Armstrong 2005, 188), non-government hepatitis C councils in Australia endeavour to communicate hepatitis C-related information to the community via the mass media when advocating on behalf of hepatitis C-affected people. In March 2000, the Hepatitis C Council of New South Wales launched the first Australian hepatitis C public awareness campaign. Since then, other State and Territory hepatitis C councils have run hepatitis C awareness weeks that attract patchy coverage by the mainstream print and broadcast media (Hepatitis C Council of Victoria 2002). Moreover, Faye (2000), formerly a volunteer counsellor at the HCWA, found that participants in her study blamed the media for the ‘penalization’ of people infected with hepatitis C. Not only was the media the main source of information about hepatitis C for these people but also the source of considerable emotional harm. Here was an issue about which hepatitis C community groups could take action. At the outset, their critique of particular news media texts could consider what is and is not said about hepatitis C, and those affected by hepatitis C, and how representations are constructed.