A woman pulls back a curtain to reveal a glowing liver.

Revealing Your Hepatitis C Diagnosis

When we first go into a physician’s office for the first time, it can be an uneasy feeling. Then add to the nervousness the fact you are meeting this new doctor to discuss your new diagnosis... hepatitis C.

Hepatitis C is widely stigmatized

This topic is not easy, even if we are close with our doctor. For whatever reason, a person starts to feel less than when diagnosed with hep C, labeled within society as having a serious disease. We start to look down when we walk and we avoid eye contact with others, as fear they might read into our health crisis. The reality is that no one can see we are sick. The only way one would know is seeing that paper file stating we are.

Talking to the doctor about hep C

Recently, I went into a doctor for my female issues and I had to disclose past health, which included that I had hep C. Upon sharing my medical history, I caught myself rushing to the point that I was now cured. Why did I feel I needed to state that? Maybe because of the old feelings of being “different” were vivid in my mind. Yes, I too experienced the stigma that comes with the word hep C.

This doctor asked a few questions regarding my hep C. I answered the questions and then the big one came, “How did you get hep C?”.  Being in this advocacy realm over 6 years now, this question threw me. I hesitated with my answer. I felt frustrated, angry, and disgust to even be asked this by a non-liver doctor. I can understand a liver doctor needing to know this, maybe, but not a female care doctor.

It doesn't matter how you got hep C!

I sternly replied I received a blood transfusion at birth. I added that her question to me seemed irrelevant to my health now. She now was stunned by my remark and we had a moment of awkward silence. She got up and said she was sorry if she offended me, but was curious as she was not that familiar with hep C, that it was not her primary study. I then began to explain to this doctor the key factors for contracting hep C. I also let her know I am a patient advocate for those who have hep C. I explained that the stigma out in our community has gotten bad and we are doing our best to lead those to be tested, not judged. I shared that, in my opinion, and it should be in the medical community as well, that it should not matter how anyone has contracted hep C, but rather we all deserve a cure. This doctor leaned over, gave me hug, and apologized, but thanked me for setting record straight and she agreed the stigma needs to be removed.

Who have you felt comfortable sharing your diagnosis with?

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