Problem Solved?

In this last year there was a study reporting that most baby boomers were infected with hep C by medical procedures when they were very young. This might suggest for some that stigma is solved because they were not drug users after all, and therefore stigma is over and done. If only it were that simple. Now don’t get me wrong, it is no surprise to me that many of us were in fact exposed to hep C via medical or dental procedures, and today it remains the largest single mode of transmission globally.

Unfortunately there is a dark side to this information in my view, just as much as it may be positive.
First the positive piece: some people will feel like they can reaffirm their position that they were not exposed by past drug use. This can mean a lot to those who are sure they were not exposed by drug use. After all many were not and may want to make sure others know.

The dark side of this is what about those who were infected by current or past drug use? How are they left to feel? In my view this sort of division can cause what some refer to as an unintended consequence. I am reminded of an old saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions.

The idea that we would fracture farther as a community is not a positive step, as we have already faced great challenges to be recognized, and to get the dignity and respect we deserve, never mind the struggles faced in securing care by so many of us.

What can we do? We can make an effort to include all people when we speak about hep C, and not be so quick to share how we were exposed or infected. It never mattered to me how anyone was exposed. It is evident that many more of us baby boomers may have been exposed from medical practice, and if this gives people comfort it isn’t all bad I know, but again I think it has the possibility of dividing us much like we have seen before.

Is this the intent of this information? Do I favor any one sub-group of people? The answer to both of these questions is a solid no. Not all people necessarily share what has always been a position for me, and to be honest I never expected everyone to agree with my own opinions as we are all entitled to our own.

The desire to not be identified as a drug user is something I understand because of the stigma in society about drug use. For me the real battle is to remove the stigma not only around hep C but to do it around addiction and drug use. I know I can harp on about this but it is something I see as an important issue if we are ever going to change the narrative with hep C.

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