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On the left, a man stands on a dark platform on the phone looking distressed, while a dotted line travels from his mouth to the other side of the image, which is bright and sunny with hope.

Common Questions from the Help-4-Hep Helpline

As a Help-4-Hep counselor, I’ve heard it all. Help-4-Hep is a nationwide, toll-free telephone helpline, focused on answering questions about hepatitis C. In case you’re wondering what we do and how we can help, here are some of the questions we frequently receive at Help-4-Hep.

“I was just diagnosed…”

Many callers will start off with, “I was just diagnosed with hep c…”. Many (if not most) people are frightened and stunned by the news. They are seeking not only answers, but reassurance that they will survive. Sharing that I too had hep C and that I was cured always calms the caller, but it is never over with just that statement. Their level of understanding about hep C is usually low, and that is of course why they are calling the helpline. Trust is key, and knowing our conversations are confidential is critical.

Help-4-Hep, as the name suggests, is here to help people in any way we can, and reassuring answers is a large part of the help we provide.

“What do my test results mean?”

Another issue that comes up frequently is the important difference between antibody testing and RNA confirmatory testing. It is not something that is easily understood at first glance; even if it was explained to the caller where they were tested for hep c. The difference is a critical piece of information that needs to be well understood. So, we take the time to make sure people know which test or tests they have had done, and if further testing is appropriate. Next steps are critically linked to whether one has chronic hep C, or if they have been exposed and their immune system has already defeated the virus. Even if we are cured, individuals will test positive for antibodies in the absence of the chronic disease, regardless of whether they were cured by the body’s immune response or by drug therapy/treatment.

“So, what is viral load?”

Things like the meaning of viral load are more secondary, and that is a relatively simple explanation that sometimes leads to a more in-depth conversation. Ultimately, viral load is significant before, during, and after treatment to determine the effectiveness of the treatment. Intervals for testing vary from one treating doctor to another, but generally, if someone has an undetectable viral load after 12 weeks of treatment, they are cured.

“Can hep C be cured?”

The question of whether hep C is curable comes up all the time, even with all the advertising to inform people of treatments and their effectiveness. Some people remain unsure and need assurance. At Help-4-Hep, we never give medical advice, but we can only share data from clinical studies. Yes, hep C can be cured!

The hepatitis C journey

In general, people want to know if they are going to be alright, or their father, mother, sister, brother, or friend will be okay. The anxiety we all feel when confronted with a diagnosis that we don’t understand is normal. Empowering people with knowledge and understanding goes a long way to allaying the fear.

Hope and empathy, caring and shared experience, add a dimension to our work that is not something learned from a study. This is what is at the core of our support.

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For those in Canada, call Help4Hep BC* at 1-855-411-7578. *Please note, Help4Hep BC may be able to provide limited support for people outside of British Columbia. 

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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.