Judgment and Hepatitis C: Stop Asking, "So How'd You Get it?"

In 2008, I came out of the closet about my hepatitis C when I requested medical leave. But the issue that I did not anticipate was the thoughtlessness of those around me. These were not necessarily mean people, just clueless. Close relatives and strangers alike felt entitled to ask personal questions about my hepatitis C and to share their judgment. I willingly shared my experience with newly diagnosed hepatitis C people - but not the nosy, judgmental people. You know the ones in your life. I developed answers that discouraged probing questions. I want to bring hepatitis C out of the closet, but these questions can drive it back for the newly diagnosed. Prepare for the inevitable.

“How did you get it?”

This insensitive question requires me to declare if I was naughty or nice. “Did you have a transfusion?”, which dangles, “Did you use drugs?” in the middle of the conversation. When I was on treatment, I was extremely ill. One day my mother-in-law walked in while she was on the phone and asked, “How did you get Hepatitis C? Janice, my cousin in Indianapolis, wants to know.” I didn’t know her cousin! Because my brain was in a fog, I blurted out the answer. I didn’t want to say, but another response wasn’t available to me. That diagnosis traveled around the globe in a single day. Did that make my life difficult? No, but I was uncomfortable at that moment.

How to respond

Before you are surprised by the question, prepare a couple of standard answers for yourself and put them in your brain pocket.

  • Why do you ask?
  • I am not sure, just being a Baby Boomer is a risk factor.
  • That is a personal issue.
  • That information is for my family and my doctor.
  • Not sure, but I am happy for my recovery.
  • Does it matter? The cure is the same.
  • You wouldn’t ask me how I got pregnant.
  • How is your health? (Create your own redirect here.)

Remember to apply a warm smile while responding. Good luck.

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