The Guy Who Had It

A colleague and I recently talked about how some of us refer to People with Lived Experience (PWLE). This is sometimes inclusive of living to identify people who are yet to be diagnosed and cured.

Jokingly they suggested maybe I could identify as the guy who had it. It was pure comedy, and although I rarely equate or humorously discuss hep C, we have some laughs where I work at a viral hepatitis network.

The thing is that I am a guy who had it. It has been 11 years since I was cured, and I have no idea how long I had hep C; my best guess is anywhere from 12 years to 30 years.

I know it is a wide range, but honestly, there were several different times I could have contracted the virus.

Based on my moderately damaged liver (F2) or stage two fibrosis, it was probably closer to 30 years, as I didn’t drink much and ate healthy with an active lifestyle. These are all things that are healthier for the liver, but there is no scale for how long a person lives with the virus directly relates to damage, only understanding that longer is typically worse.

Cured and putting hep C behind you

If you had it, like me, and now you are cured, that is news that will always lift my spirit. Ok, so you don’t know me, but chances are we have some shared context because we had hep C.

If you have recently been diagnosed, I hope that you, too, can get the treatment and are cured. Then you will be that person who had it.

If you have lived with it a long time, or you have no clear idea like me doesn’t matter. If you have been exposed through a transfusion or drug use matters, not to me, I hope we can all see hep C without judgment or stigmatization.

No matter how you identify or what population you are assigned, it matters little when you are cured. This is unless you are in a situation where others measure you in some way that impacts your right to the support you may require so that you have a right to not be judged or marginalized by others based on having or having had an infectious disease like hep C.

We all deserve to live free of judgment

Health equity is a critical piece, and for those of us who do not have equitable access to care or the basics of safe housing and food security, it is crucial. Things are changing for the better, and we are seeing and hearing less stigma in general, but there remains a distance to go before we see an end to the kind of horrible examples some of us have experienced and heard from others.

In my lighter moments, I will identify as the guy who had it but doesn’t have it anymore, and seriously that is what I hope for you.

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