I Have a Few Questions

This is something I hear regularly in my work as a peer navigator and support worker. Not surprising really, considering the maze of sources for information about hep C. Imagine a question and I think I have probably heard it at some time over the years. To be fair, the answers have changed as much as our overall understanding of hep C has changed. Not to mention the incredible advances in treatment over the last 5 years.

Hepatitis C is confusing

As I have said many times, science is never static, meaning it keeps changing in terms of what we know or believe is true and accurate. Over my time around hep C knowledge and awareness, there have been some big shifts in thinking and beliefs/facts. The real experts often disagree and I read and hear conflicting information from the sources that are commonly believed or accepted as the official last word. This is not unique to hep C. Nope, no way.

Few people understand the basics of hep C and testing may be the most confusing part for most. A positive antibody test often needs 2-4 tries when I am explaining the difference between an antibody test and an RNA PCR test. I was no different, I am sure. It is not something we would necessarily understand as part of our everyday lives. The unfortunate result is people not knowing the difference. And, the implications of confusing between these two tests is problematic when they are told they have hep C when all they have had is the antibody test. Understanding that we need to have the confirmatory test is another piece that requires a clear explanation. If you know these things now it is because someone either explained it to you or you read it somewhere, and now you know just how important it is to know the difference.

Understanding transmission and prevention

Another common question is about transmission – how we can be exposed or expose others to the virus. Simply explained – it is blood-to-blood contact, but the questions can involve all sorts of scenarios. They vary as widely as our one can imagine. And, I have heard plenty of them but I will never say I have heard them all by any means.

There really are no stupid questions to ask when you are not well informed or don’t have a good understanding. Nobody should ever hesitate to ask questions. In younger people, the most common questions are about sexual transmission between sexual partners. Whether it is about passing it on or receiving it, it’s an issue that we should all consider when it comes to safe sexual health and practices. As it turns out it is low risk but as I like to say low risk is not zero risk – get tested!

For men who have sex with men, the risk is higher. But really if you want to prevent transmission, practice safe sex because it not only lowers risk for hep C, it also helps to protect against HIV, especially for those who have sex with multiple partners.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

These are just a few of the questions and concerns that people have and these do not even begin to address the questions about treatment. Perhaps another time. Again, if you have any doubts about something, just ask. You can do that here or on the Help-4-Hep helpline or in a group where knowledgeable people hang out. But never be reluctant to ask.

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