a woman is surrounded by a circle of doctors with their back to her, ignoring her, due to hepatitis C stigma

Stigma: Hepatitis C and Cirrhosis

It is still happening today - the stigma and judgements from medical professionals about hep C and cirrhosis. Just this week, my daughter went into a primary doctor (PA, rather) for a physical for her new job. The process went as normal, until the PA sat and began to ask about Megan’s family’s medical history.

Misconceptions about cirrhosis

Megan spoke up and said "My mom has end stage cirrhosis". The PA stopped looked up at Megan and said, “Oh, a heavy drinker huh?”. Megan immediately became defensive. She came back sternly to this PA “No, she is not a drinker. She got it from hepatitis C from which she got from a blood transfusion at birth. She went on a trial for hep C and was cured in 2014.”

Not a peep came from this PA as she looked blankly back into her screen of her computer. Megan went on to share that you do not get cirrhosis just from drinking. She stated “You do realize there are several health conditions that cause cirrhosis, right?” Again, no reply or answer from the PA. They finished the appointment with this PA being very short with Megan, almost to point of being rude.

Megan called me in tears after this appointment, upset that this woman had the nerve to be so uncaring and unprofessional. She cried, apologizing that she was sad people (medical professionals) are still being uneducated about hep C and cirrhosis

My family's commitment to hep C advocacy

I explained that I knew what I was getting into when I first started my advocacy with hep C. I knew the stigma around it - people associate hep C with alcohol and drug use. But I wanted to be that person to stand up and say enough was enough and that I was not going to tolerate this from any medical doctor I came into contact with. I was going to educate and be the voice for hundreds of people being wrongfully judged for this disease.

We all deserve a cure

I told my daughter I was proud of her for standing up and being a voice. I told her we have a long way to go. but if we do this one at a time, that is one more person getting facts and hopefully changing their perspective of the disease. It does not matter how anyone contracted hep C. We all deserve respect, understanding, and to not be judged. As a hep C community, WE ALL DESERVE A CURE. Let's stop the stigma!

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