The Normalization of Hep C

Is it normal to have hep C? Well, it is not common despite the 170 million who live with it globally. That is a lot of people living with a life-destroying illness and in some populations the prevalence is surprisingly high. The fact is that when I mention the normalization of hep C I am referring to an effort to make it less tied to the common myths that have made it a stigmatized disease/illness.

Misconceptions About Hep C Flourish

It is in this environment that I propose we normalize hep c much like we have seen with illness like asthma, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. There is a common held belief that there is no need for ongoing care once the virus is dead unless one has health concerns related to the things that hep C causes over time, and they can be numerous. In an era of what is called a cure for hepatitis C, there are many people living with issues either caused or exacerbated by living with chronic infection. Ongoing treatment is not unusual with other chronic illness, and stigma does exist elsewhere, but not nearly as much as I have seen with hep C.

The long held belief that hep C is caused by drug use is a common belief. Is this correct or simply a myth? The fact is that many cases of hep C in our world are transmitted through medical procedures. Unknowingly people are being exposed to the virus in medical facilities, even now. Not as common in developed nations with strict standards of care with sterilization practices that mostly prevent the transmission of infectious disease, many were exposed in the past through medical practice in these so-called developed nations.

The Public Still Knows Little About Hep C, As Compared to HIV

Most of us know well about the risks of HIV transmission, and there are many public health warnings and education on HIV is and has been widespread globally thanks to it being normalized. The early belief that it was an exclusive disease of gay men has been exploded. This normalized HIV to a great extent in my view. When it was found to be an equal opportunity disease that affected women and children alike the approach to prevention and education changed.

These lessons are coming slowly to hepatitis C as it turns out. It has no preference for men or women or children, as it is opportunistic. I know people from all walks of life in every socio-economic status who are now, or have lived with hep C. Whether or not one is a drug user or a banker who is 59 years old, you may be at risk. Are you likely to transmit to others if you are the 59 year old banker? Probably not, but the drug user who does not have access to education about managing risks and has no access to a safe environment for their drug use, they are likely to pass the virus on to others. We need to take a new look at drug use and addiction as a part of any prevention strategy and a normalization process. Addiction should not equal infectious disease any more than infectious disease equals drug use. In my view until we approach these issues in a realistic and appropriate way we will see stigma flourish, and it is a damaging part of living with a misunderstood condition.

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