Teaching our community preventative medicine

May 7, 2020#CommuniTea Stories, Latest News

👤 Kanwal, Community Engagement and Project Officer

☕ Coffee/tea order: Long black 


“I met my husband in high school in Pakistan and moved to Australia to be with him in 2016.

I was a practising doctor in Pakistan but decided not to continue working as a GP here because I wanted to work in preventive medicine. I pursued a Master of Public Health degree at Melbourne University, where I found my interest in sexual and reproductive health.

I was at my graduation ceremony in December last year and my phone rang as I was about to walk up the stage. It was a call for a job interview at North Richmond Community Health! My graduation was on a Tuesday, and my interview happened that Thursday. My parents were visiting from Pakistan at the time and were anxiously waiting for me to return home from the job interview. Thank God it was good news – I got the job!

I work at the Centre for Culture, Ethnicity & Health (CEH) which is one of North Richmond Community Health’s programs. I’m part of the Multicultural Health & Support Services (MHSS) team – we work with refugee and migrant communities to prevent the transmission of blood-borne viruses (BBVs) and sexually transmissible infections (STIs).

The challenge of this job is that talking about sex in migrant and refugee communities is taboo – if they know a session is about Hepatitis B, chances are they won’t come. In many communities, having HIV or Hepatitis B is very stigmatised – it’s considered to be dirty. We have to make the medium culturally appropriate so they feel comfortable attending these sessions and having conversations about BBVs and STIs. We need to let people know about treatments and screening tests, and that there is no shame in going for them. Improving health literacy is really important for our community.”

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