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Hepatitis C Discrimination: What We Can Do

For many patients, sadly, discrimination and hepatitis C go hand-in-hand. Due to stigma surrounding hepatitis C, as well as myths and misconceptions about this condition, many people are shamed or discriminated against for having hepatitis C. However, we won’t back down. To help our community members to stand-up to this injustice, we asked our advocates, “What can we do to combat hep C discrimination?“. Check out their responses, or comment below to share your own ideas!

From Connie

“I believe first and foremost, it’s important to inform others about the facts and correct myths about hepatitis C. Often, people are afraid and make judgments on something they don’t understand. If there were education programs offered in the workplace or HR departments, perhaps more people would be at ease and encouraged to talk about it and hopefully get tested. Hepatitis C patients are protected under the American Disabilities Act and are not suppose to lose their jobs or promotions due to having hepatitis C.”

From Daryl

“There are a number of things that can be done to lessen the disrespect and discrimination towards people with hep C lived experience, and I believe we are seeing incremental change in attitudes. In my opinion, discrimination grows out of people not understanding the facts, and societal beliefs that are based in myths and half-truths. Awareness/understanding has always been the best cure for discrimination, and as we all try to better inform others, we will continue to see improvements. It is crucial for healthcare providers to be better informed about the power of their words and attitudes, and made more important when dealing with people who may already be dealing with stigma at home, where they work, or anywhere. Given that most people will not disclose their status beyond close family or friends, they are already feeling the hurt that discrimination can cause.”

From Karen

“I wish every person would simply state the truth about hep C and tell their story. Then, others would be forced to realize that those of us with hep C are just like them. Anyone can get the virus, and everyone deserves respect while they are getting treatment. After treatment, people need to realize that it takes time for us to heal and we need compassion from our medical staff, family, and friends. Putting us down only makes us feel worse. It’s hard for us to take action when we are not getting encouragement or kindness.”

From Kim

“Discrimination is something we all, unfortunately , face when having hepatitis C. It has been my experience that this discrimination is just the lack of understanding fully what hepatitis C is and how it is contracted. In earlier days, it was only associated with IV drug use. As we get more and more people being diagnosed, the information about hep c is being spread more and more. It is my thought that if we share our personal stories with others – putting a “face” to hep C – we can be proactive in the fight against stigma. We must all stand together and share our stories and be the voice to those that need to hear about hep C and the importance of getting tested.”

From Rick

“We can combat the disrespect by providing more information about hep C, as a virus, as a condition, and about the populations affected. Education about the reality of life with the virus, its transmission vectors (how it spreads), and that there are options for cures are some of those key elements people are often missing when they apply stigma to another person. When engaging someone about hep C, it’s important to recognize the human first, and that goes for everyone involved; Making those little connections, those commonalities are how we can bridge a divide. With some common ground, we can talk about how it affects us, our fears, our concerns, our goals. We can promote local efforts: In San Diego, we have Eliminate Hepatitis C San Diego, but many cities are growing or have their own hep C tasks forces, part of their aim is addressing exactly this.”

From Susie

“I believe that knowledge is power. Educating people about the virus and how it is spread can be helpful. If we can take the fear that some have of being able to “catch” the virus, I think that would be helpful. Hepatitis C is not that easy to “catch”. When people learn that injection drug use is not the only way to become infected, it helps, as well. So, fear and lack of education about hepatitis C are the two main components of stigma. Take action. Educate people and don’t “own” the stigma.”