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Hep C Stigma, Young and Old

Recently, a mother of a child with hepatitis C contacted me about how to handle public and school situations with her child’s diagnosis. The mother, who we’ll call “Anne”, found herself hiding her child’s diagnosis from friends, family, and the child’s school.

Anne explained that she sees how other parents are treated and talked about when they come forward with their child’s particular health issue. She overhears the gossip from other parents. Anne said she was ashamed she was letting it bother her and worried if she spoke up that parents would tell their children, spreading gossip.

The possibility for misunderstanding and gossip in schools

I told Anne I totally understand her fear and concern. It is difficult to see no matter the age of the patient with hepatitis C, that stigma, back lash, and isolation are prevalent. I shared with her that coming forward and being open and honest about what hepatitis c is and its transmission will be the only way her community properly learns about the virus. I told her I felt that the only people at this time should be just the teacher and school nurse whom should be aware of the child’s medical status.  Again, be prepared to share detailed information on how it is contracted. We are dealing with a general population that is naïve as to how one contracts hepatitis c and how it spreads. If you can equip the teacher and nurse (hopefully he/she is aware and up to date) with this information, they can provide better support for your children.

Educating the school community makes a huge difference

I spoke to a junior high school about three years ago about liver disease and hepatitis C. They had a health class that was studying the liver. I reached out to the teacher, who then took it to the principal and they phoned me about doing a “hepatitis C and liver awareness” night at the school. I was nervous and worried how I would be able to deliver this information to these parents and students. Even though I am knowledgeable about the virus through my firsthand experience, I was nervous.

The informational night was filled with pamphlets, information on free testing sites, and, of course, liver-friendly snacks. I was approached by three families and thanked for the presentation. Each family member had someone in their life with hepatitis C. They said that this helped them feel more comfortable about sharing their story and not being afraid to speak up.

I get the gossip sessions that take place in schools amongst parent-teacher association members. Every town and city has that group of people who find it their life’s mission to deliver the town gossip. Remove yourself from situations that might compromise yourself and your child. Right now, focus on your child’s health and nothing more. Let those who are going to talk do just that. Sure, stick up for your child/self, but do not let other dictate how your child attends school and do your best to give teachers and school the most up-to-date information on hepatitis C and ask that your child be treated just like every kid there. This information on their health status should not change how they are to attend and learn in school.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.