The linguistic demography of Australians living with chronic hepatitis B


  • Benjamin Cowie

    1. Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory; Victorian Infectious Diseases Service, Royal Melbourne Hospital; and Department of Medicine, University of Melbourne, Victoria
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Correspondence to:
Dr Benjamin C. Cowie, Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory, 10 Wreckyn Street, North Melbourne 3051 Victoria; e-mail:


Objective: The prevalence of chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection is increasing in Australia, and most affected individuals were born overseas. Estimating the English literacy of predominantly affected populations and determining the languages other than English (LOTE) spoken is essential for the development of appropriate resources.

Method: Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Department of Immigration and Citizenship were used to estimate the number of Australian residents by birth country, English literacy and LOTE spoken, with a focus on those arriving in the past two decades. Prevalence of chronic HBV infection was estimated using source country seroprevalence. The results were compared to Victorian surveillance notification data and published Australian epidemiological and clinical studies.

Results: Chinese languages and Vietnamese are the dominant languages spoken by Australians living with chronic HBV infection who speak limited or no English. Estimates of predominant source countries for people living with chronic HBV infection derived from Census data were generally coherent with existing epidemiological and clinical studies but differences exist, particularly for groups targeted for screening such as humanitarian entrants.

Conclusions: This study emphasises the need for LOTE resources for Australians living with chronic HBV infection and suggests priority languages. The notable differences observed between Census-derived estimates and surveillance data suggest there are particularly under-diagnosed groups within the community.

Implications: This study has clear implications for prioritising the translation of resources targeting Australians living with chronic HBV infection.