Again, What is Hep C?

I bet most people reading this have a fairly good understanding of what hep C is and how it is passed from one person to another. You don’t need a degree or a deep understanding (unless you want to have one, and that is great if you do). A basic understanding is useful if you are affected yourself or have someone close to you who is living with the virus and you want to better understand. We often call the basics ‘hep C 101’. For the majority of us who have lived with the virus, this basic understanding is adequate.

Misconceptions about hepatitis C

Recently, when a colleague and I were presenting to a group of heath care students at a local university, we were both surprised (and not) at the low level of understanding about hep C. The understanding that general awareness of hep C, even in healthcare, is low was the impetus for having the sessions. One thing that was commonly believed is that hep C and substance use have a strong connection and that sharing of substance use equipment was the nexus.

There are many ways to get hep C

What was not known very well was other ways that people may have been exposed in their past, like we see with folks in the Baby Boomer group, which still make up the majority of people living with hep C. Exposure from healthcare procedures was low on the list of understanding, but that is more a thing of the past in wealthier countries like ours, but still remains the main transmission route for viral hepatitis globally. Knowing how any on person is exposed to the virus really does not matter so much to us unless it matters to you, and some people do appear to want to know. If it was through a medical procedure, it may be relevant to a claim you may have for compensation.

We all deserve treatment

For many years. we have tried to downplay the importance around how people got hep C, and for a list of reasons that mostly refer to treatment access and stigma. How anyone was exposed and went on to have chronic hep C should never affect how one can access safe and stigma-free care and treatment. We can all agree on this as a fundamental pillar of equity we must be consistent in supporting if we will ever see an end (elimination) of the global pandemic that viral hepatitis is. Maybe the globe is too big a place to extend our actions, but we can do this at home where we live in our community, one person at a time. Better understanding and basic knowledge go a long way to fight stigma and improve care access.

So, what is hep C?

In the simplest of terms, it is something that causes us to be very sick if we don’t get rid of it, and if we know we have it, we can take steps to eliminate it. One at a time or by the millions, we can get it done for ourselves, for others, and all of us.

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