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Defining Hepatitis C

Defining Hepatitis C

What Is Hepatitis C to You?

Does it encompass more to you, or is it an infectious disease as defined in medical terms? The ability to cure hep C is an amazing accomplishment in science and medicine, and of that there is no doubt. What is there left to do, some may ask. But there is more to this than simply a disease. It is no simple disease, and we can all agree on that at the very least. You may be struggling with a new diagnosis and wonder what I am talking about, but some of you who have lived with hep C may well understand why these questions are being asked.

A Medical or Social Issue?

I once asked a group of people who have lived experience, the question whether hep C was a medical issue or a social issue. The results were interesting in that some believed it was simply a medical condition, while others saw it as something much broader. It was a fascinating exercise and an eye-opener for me and I hope for others. There is no right answer to the question; it depends on our own experience and our view and opinions on who is the face of hep C. In your own mind who is the face of this disease? Is it you or I, or someone else? Digging deeper, where does someone with hep C live, if they have a place at all, and where do they work, do they have employment and are they able to be employed? These are all reasonable questions, aren’t they? Have you asked any of these questions or are they things that never crossed your mind?

There is no single face of hep C, and we come from every imaginable walk of life. Maybe you, definitely me, and millions of others who go about their lives each day with many of them unaware they even have chronic hepatitis C. Those of who are involved in the community of people living with or at risk for hep C are acutely aware of the stigma issues, and how important things like prevention and overall harm reduction for those at the greatest risk for new infection are. The drug using population faces the greatest challenges in prevention and access to care, and for support in education and services to deal with issues like secure living conditions, addiction counseling and mental wellness support that is not judgmental, and robust harm reduction where they live. Living with hep C, along with this collection of other barriers, is greater than just an infectious disease.

I am in no way suggesting that this is the only people who have issues with hep C, not a chance. Stigma exists across the board. There are conditions caused by years of living with the virus, and some will not be fixed with a cure for hep C, if they can access it. Mental health, physical health and disease caused by hep C can be extremely challenging, and add in aging and we have a population who need our support and the services available to ensure their wellness. Education and linkage to care is just as important with these folks as with any age group or other defined population.

In short, I see hep C as something more than an infectious disease, and if you don’t agree that’s ok with me. But please consider that others may need more than you do, and not because they are weak or because you are strong, but I would say, in my experience, you are lucky.

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.