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Stories

HEP Hero Paul Stewart

June 1, 2015

Paul Stewart

Painters and Dockers Band Member, The Transplants Band Member and Youth Community Worker 

“I am a Hep Hero because I want to warn that hepatitis C can’t be ignored and that we should all get tested to then make healthy lifestyle choices.”

I contracted hepatitis C through intravenous drug use – I only did it a couple of times, but that was enough.

Back then drug use was pretty common and everyone was doing it. I guess we just didn’t know the risks and it was pretty much a given in the music scene in the 70s and 80s. I did it stupidly for the first time drunkenly with a friend.

Once I learnt of my hepatitis C I didn’t take much notice. I didn’t listen to doctor’s advice to cut back on alcohol consumption and eventually it caught up with me.

My hepatitis C was so developed, my liver so scarred, that I didn’t have the option of treatment; I had to undergo a liver transplant straight away. I was unfortunate enough to be looking down the barrel of what happens when hepatitis C takes hold.

While waiting for my liver transplant I attended a 2006 benefit concert for guitarist Lobby Loyde, who died a year later from lung cancer. I was in a semicircle of five guys – three of them are now dead. I look back on that day and feel blessed to still be here. I feel obliged to tell others to take care of themselves and get the message out.

Hepatitis C is the leading cause of liver transplants in Australia. Of the 230,000 Australians living with chronic hepatitis C around a quarter have moderate liver disease. Despite these numbers, there are no headlines about it, no ribbon days. The stigma surrounding hepatitis C silences news and the epidemic continues.

It has been five years since my transplant and I am grateful everyday.

I decided to join forces with Shane Laffy (ex Man Friday) to form a band call “The Transplants”. Together we raise awareness of the risks, thank those who donated and support others who have had a transplant or are waiting for one.

I also work at the Brosnan Centre in Brunswick as well as with a few youth organisations. I work with young people who are at risk, in particular those who have been in prison or youth justice centres. I believe that through positive education messages we can make people more aware of hepatitis C and end the silence.
“Don’t put your head in the sand – get tested and act.”

Paul’s message to others:

“Don’t put your head in the sand – get tested and act.”

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