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Veterans and Hepatitis C

For the last 3 years, my organization has offered free Hepatitis C testing at our local Homeless Vets Stand Down. This year we had the privilege of testing the Mayor of Colorado Springs. It was good to share information about the epidemic in the State of Colorado with him. We followed up with a few calls and hope to meet him again soon to give him the latest hep C news for our area. In all we tested about 75, educated over 200, loved on and smiled at every person we came in contact with. It’s easy to love this group. All of them are thankful and all of them have served our country. All of them are respectful despite being desperate, sad, and even embarrassed about being poor. I have been all those things and remember how good it felt to be considered worthy of help when I was down.

A Personal Cause

These Stand Downs are especially sweet for me because my oldest son is an Active Duty Marine. This is the same son who tested positive for hep C. He is partially responsible for our passion to serve people with Hep C. Not because he had hep C but because he didn’t. The doctor told us he was positive and that he would never be able to serve in the military. At the time, there were no approved drugs for children with hep C so all we could do is monitor. So we did, we monitored and cried and felt ashamed and worried. It was over a year before more blood work was drawn and a doctor familiar with hep C shared that he had cleared the virus on his own. He was positive for the antibody but not the virus. We were elated, relieved, and perturbed. We went a whole year thinking I had infected my son with a deadly virus. I thought I was responsible for ruining his dream to serve in the Military. This lack of good information motivated us to change things for others.

Hope for a Cure for All Veterans

I pray my son is not homeless in 40 years, but if he is I hope he meets people who care. These men at the Stand Down were not unlike my son at one time. Young, strong, courageous warriors. They served their country for noble reasons just like my son – to protect their friends and family. They served and trusted, and many came home with hepatitis C from Jet Gun Inoculations. Many still don’t know they carry the virus. My dad is a Vietnam Vet and had never been tested until we started our advocacy work. Don’t assume your Veteran Friends have been tested, even if they go to the VA. In fact don’t assume anyone is free of this virus. Tell everyone you know to get tested. The VA Expanded its Hepatitis C Drug Treatment by agreeing to fund care for all Veterans with hepatitis C regardless of the stage of the patient’s liver disease. My son was lucky to of cleared the virus on his own, but many of our soldiers are still carrying this deadly virus and have no idea.

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