Hepatitis C Awareness Month 2020: Why This Year Is Different
Every year, we recognize Hepatitis C Awareness Month. However, this year is a little different. During these uncertain times, your doctor is the best person to ask if you have concerns about your health or COVID-19. But, to better understand how the hepatitis C community is dealing with COVID-19 concerns, we asked our hep C advocates, "How has COVID-19 affected hepatitis C awareness? How will this year's awareness month be different due to COVID-19?". Check-out their responses, or comment below to share your own perspective!
"COVID-19 is in the forefront of everyone’s attention. In my opinion, this has put hepatitis C awareness on the back-burner. People are heavily focused on health and protection from COVID-19 during this time, but this is also a time people are slowed down and able to receive information about awareness of hepatitis C."
"Treatments may become more complicated due to COVID-19 depending on the region and trajectory of it. Each medical facility will determine if the needed procedures for hep C are essential, thus delays could occur in liver biopsies, transplants, or blood testing. Many agencies and organizations administering services, such as needle exchanges, case worked outreach, and mobile medical care could be closed. Finally, the stay-at-home scenario can cause depression, anxiety, and hopelessness, for some."
"In this COVID-19 era, I am seeing a heightened sense of dread and worry, which is not unique to hep C. There are some unique challenges in places where testing has been suspended or access to care is restricted, and we will continue to help people access the information and services they need. The awareness of hep C may be taking a back seat to more pressing concerns that people have, and this is not at all surprising, but that does not mean that we should stop getting information out for people who may still be unaware of the need for testing and linkage to care and support, which we can all offer to each other in these challenging times."
"For myself, COVID-19 has affected my ability to work in my field. My job includes educating all age groups and demographics about hepatitis C and now with restrictions around contact and distance, I am unable to educate as I was before. However, I have tailored my education to an online format to ensure that people who want the information are still able to access it. As persons with current HCV virus’ may be a bit more susceptible to illness and extrahepatic manifestations of hepatitis C, our awareness month will likely have more of a focus on self-care: keeping yourself safe and protected from the virus."
"I feel COVID, in some ways, has increased awareness around gepatitis C. The British Columbia Center for Substance Use is stepping up and providing a safe supply of substances to people at risk of withdrawal or OD, so they can isolate during COVID. Many of the prescribing doctors are also linked to organizations that test and treat people living with HCV. I believe this will be a good opportunity to connect people who use drugs & are living with HCV with the supports in the community, they might not have otherwise been able to access. I witnessed someone be connected with a safe supply, and at the same the prescribing doctor offered to treat & cute his hep C."
"I personally think this years awareness can show the similarities (or a comparison) between the two. They’re both viruses. Now, more people are aware of how a virus is spread. Hep C can have hot spots, just like the novel coronavirus. We may even be able to use the same vocabulary from COVID-19 to talk about hep C, to create an association. Social distancing may be compared to being careful of who you associate with. Wearing a mask is a lot like a single use clean syringe or equipment. Also, with both viruses, there can be dire consequences to ignoring the “rules” regarding keeping yourself safe. Risky behavior, even one time, is like gambling on your life, with both hep C and COVID-19. You never know who has it either virus, because it can be asymptomatic.
Throughout this year, we will be able to find new and creative ways to discuss Hepatitis C and helping people understand the association with liver health and the importance of treatment. Many of the prominent liver organizations are stepping up awareness, in part due to the weakened immune systems of some hepatitis C patients. Access to treatment is more important than ever before. I also feel that because families are together more, the awareness of hep C and its effects on the liver is heightened."
"I do not believe that COVID-19 has affected the awareness of hepatitis C. In fact, with more secluded to their homes and nothing to do except watch TV (commercials, etc.) more people are getting exposure to hep C information. Awareness month will be much different in no person-to-person education and testing for hep C. We will see more ads and more media coverage and I think if we did some sort of mass mailers to public, it would be a good thing."
"COVID-19 has taken up all the airspace on television, radio, and the internet. Primary care physicians, as well as nurse practitioners, are so busy dealing with their critically ill patients, they have much less time to help educate their patients about hepatitis C. This does impact patients with a new diagnosis who are frightened and have questions. For some, COVID-19 has inhibited access to HCV care. Medical providers are busy with care of critically ill patients. While learning of a hepatitis diagnosis seems like an emergency, treating it, the majority of times, can wait. Unlike COVID-19, hepatitis C is a slowly progressing virus. Due to social distancing, this years awareness will be mostly online. There will be no town hall meetings to educate people and no testing events."
If you're concerned about hepatitis C or COVID-19, please consider talking to your healthcare provider.