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Hepatitis C and Youth

There are different age groups who have hep c. Youth is one group that in not spoken about as much as baby boomers or others who may have been exposed decades ago. Their concerns and issues as a group will be different because their reality is not the same as a 60 year old, for the most part at least.

I have written and spoken a lot about all the things we have in common in living with hep c, but there are some differences in attitudes and experiences that young people have as much as those of us who are older face with a hep c diagnosis, not to mention risk factors.

From what I hear in my work with the community, youth has different priorities, and this is no big surprise to me but we don’t hear much about the young person experience and hep c. At the top of the list when youth ask about hep c are the implications with sexual partners. “How can I get it” or “how can I give it” from and to my sex partner, gay or straight, but mostly I hear from the larger straight segment in the population of millennial.

There are other concerns with young people, but the discussion with partners about their own or the partner’s hep c status is by far the most common. Does this suggest that they are sex crazed or shallow? No way, it speaks to the time of life they are in, especially for the males. This is not a big revelation I know, but hep c added yet another risk fears, not unlike the older and more known HIV and other STI risks.

The level of understanding about HCV is low among populations across the full spectrum, and it is not so different with youth.


Lack of attention to good reliable information about hep c impacts us all and youth is no exception despite the challenges that are specific to how younger people get their information. Although most of the millennials grew up in a fully digital world unlike me, and we need to reach them, as we do others, in the place where they live.

In a recent discussion with a person who works in the youth community I shared my observations and they were not surprised or shocked. Their activity is with street affected youth and there are often more pressing issues than sexual health and hep c. The actions needed to address this population are much broader than the kids living in the suburbs with Mom and Dad. I am not passing a judgement on who is more important; all are equally important unquestionably.

What can be done to raise awareness about risks with youth is a question few ask. It needs to be part of the discussion in a more real and robust way in my opinion. Generally speaking now, in a time when treatment is rationed based on how sick one is, youth are not likely to have advanced liver disease unless they were born with HCV or became infected at an early age. It is my hope and a part of our work as advocates to remove all barriers to care and treatment, but until that happens I think the focus should be on prevention with youth.

Prevention will help stem the tide of new infections, whether from sexual activity, drug use with shared equipment, or tattoos and piercings, it is something we need to do in a real way that includes campaigns, conversations at schools, and general awareness about risks.

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.