The Power of Peers: Coping with Hepatitis C

Having hep C was not an easy time for some of us; For those like me, hep C symptoms made it very hard, at times. How hard, you ask? The fatigue could be like a giant blanket that made walking across the room a big challenge. Never could get enough sleep or rest, no matter how much I slept or rested. Some of you have had similar experiences with fatigue and other symptoms.

How I fought hep C

How did we get through it? Sometimes I wonder how we did, yet here we are, able to do so much more. And, despite some of the long-term and lingering effects, we are much better. Without hesitation, I can say that it was my peers that got me through hep C. Not feeling alone in my misery, and the knowledge they shared, gave me hope that it was not something I would never overcome. With their help, I did. I cannot stress enough how much support I received and how readily a group of strangers gave me their time, with warmth and empathy. Empathy is an important part of peers supporting peers. It's a kind of knowing, based in lived or living experience.

How peers make a difference

The roles of peers have the potential to expand beyond support and navigation (as we have seen by example far too rarely, in my view). The importance of peer work as part of a team to include medical care professionals and the full complement of services, is one ideal model for care, but this model is rarely available. Usually reserved for progressive urban locations, we can look to other models of care that are more scalable and leverage the role of peers in testing and linkage to appropriate care and resources.

Well informed and trained peers with a strong set of skills and empathy can make a real difference in how well people do in the cascade of care from pre-testing through to treatment, cure, and beyond. Long-term outcomes are what we all want to see, and we can play an important role, recognizing that we cannot do everything, and the part we play is in that support we give, that we alone can provide. Working together with non-peers who are dedicated to the same outcomes are our allies in this, and their skills also complement what we have to offer.

If you have the time and interest, get involved in some way. There may be a place nearby that would honor your involvement, and you can make a difference in someone’s life; You really can, and to me, that is amazing and uplifting at once! A true win-win.

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