The Dangers of Stigma with Hepatitis C
Patients diagnosed with hepatitis C can sometimes deal with obstacles and challenges. One of the most dangerous is stigma.
"How did I contract hepatitis C?"
Early on in the hep C journey, many patients ask, “How did I get hepatitis C?” Most patients go through their memory, trying to remember what’s on the “risk list". Some people can figure out when, where, or by what means we contracted hepatitis C, while others are left without answers because they don’t know. In fact, many patients will never know how they contracted hepatitis C. Many don’t fit the “risk” list.
When all is said and done, it doesn’t matter how you contracted hepatitis C. No matter how you contracted it, now you have it, and you need to take care of yourself, seeking support and treatment.
The effects of stigma
Often due to stigma, many people assume that the only way to contract hepatitis C is through using drugs. This is false. In reality, there are many ways (besides drug use) through which hepatitis C can be transmitted.
Check credible medical resources that list all possible risk factors and information on transmission. Be informed with the whole truth. Hepatitis C is often reported on with a heavy focus on drug use. This gives others the incorrect assumption that this is the only way hepatitis C is transmitted.
Many people leave out important information about the other ways that hep C can be transmitted; This leaves people confused and believing myths that they can “catch it” from touching or being around a person with hep C, or that every hepatitis C person has been involved with drugs.
This labels hepatitis C patient which they don't deserve and breeds more stigma. This stigma can cause the patient to build up a wall, not feeling comfortable to seek medical care or support - fearing others will think poorly of them.
It does NOT matter how you contracted hep C
Perhaps the person had participated in risky behaviors at some point. Remember, it’s not how you contacted hepatitis C that matters, what matters is taking care of yourself and seeking medical treatment. The heavy burden of suffering in silence and feeling isolated can have devastating effects on fighting hepatitis C.
No one, no matter what they have or have not done, should be burdened with stigma. No person should have to suffer in silence. No one. Every person matters, and every person with hepatitis C matters!
A silent epidemic
Hepatitis C is known as a silent epidemic. The Center for Disease Control reports that 1 in 33 Baby Boomers are living with hepatitis C.
Many people don’t know they have hepatitis C; For many, symptoms don’t appear until there is already significant damage to the liver. There is also a growing number of patients being diagnosed with hepatitis C at a young age - this is not just a disease of Baby Boomers.
Currently, there is no vaccine for hep C. There is only the vaccine for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Once you’ve been treated for hepatitis C, this doesn’t mean that you’re immune to contracting it again, be sure to understand what the transmission risks are.
Get tested, get cured!
Don’t assume you’ve been tested either. Often, hepatitis C is not part of routine blood tests or screenings. Unless you or your doctor specifically requests the hepatitis C test, the test will not be performed.
Like hepatitis C, stigma and labels can also serve as a silent killer. Be proactive. Get tested, seek treatment, and find support. Don’t give up until you receive your cure. You matter!
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