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Stop Asking “How Did You Get Hep C?”

In 2008, I came out of the closet about my hepatitis C (Hep 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 hep C. I willingly shared my experience with newly diagnosed hep 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 hep 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.

Editor’s Note: Are you afraid to talk about your hepatitis C? Some people want to learn more about hep C, but also want to keep their diagnosis private. At, there are ways to get information and connect with others, without revealing your identity. Click here to learn more about how to talk about hep C anonymously.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.