Patient advocate Rick Nash sometimes wears a T-shirt that reads “My pre-existing case is hepatitis C” (also known as hep C or HCV.) He uses it to start conversations about the disease.
Nash believes that open talk can help debunk myths and reduce stigma around hepatitis C. But not everyone is willing or able to be open. Whether or not you talk about a hepatitis C diagnosis is up to you.
If you want to tell others about your condition, there are some tactics that can help improve the conversation.
Talk to an intimate partner
It is important to be patient and open to any questions your partner may have. They will likely want to know how you got hepatitis C and if they can get it too.
Such questions are normal. But often, it is difficult to answer.
Paul Poulter, director of outreach and community education at the American Liver Foundation in New York, explains why.
“There is still a lot of stigma and stigma around this disease. The first thing people think of is drug use or sexual transmission.
Even Nash wrote that talking about hepatitis C can feel like you’re “revealing a deadly secret.”
To bypass obstacles:
Explain that hepatitis C is a virus that spreads through contact with the blood of an infected person. The use of intravenous drugs is one way, but there are others. They include:
- needle stick
- Organ transplantation before 1992
Tattoos or unsterilized piercing equipment can also cause this. Some people, like Nash, become infected at birth.
Tell them that hepatitis C is rarely spread through sex. You’re more likely if you have violent sex, anal sex, or sex during an outbreak of a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Discuss safer sex options, Such as using a condom if you have sexual intercourse during your period or have sex, which may lead to bleeding.
Encourage your partner to test. Angelica Bedrosian, MSW, prevention and outreach coordinator for the Hepatitis Education Project (HEP) in Seattle, says most adults should have a liver C test at least once. Anyone who injects drugs must have a test every 6 months, which is the time it takes for antibodies to the virus to form.
“[Make sure they know] She says the test is simple and hepatitis C can be cured.
Talk to your family
Bedrosian says you don’t have to disclose your hepatitis C status to your family unless you want to.
She explained that living with someone infected with hepatitis C alone is not risky. You just need to take some precautions. Do not share personal items that may have blood on them, such as razors, toothbrushes, and nail clippers. If you live with children, store these items out of reach.
If you decide to talk to your family:
Explain that hepatitis C spreads in different ways. You don’t have to say how you got it.
Reassure your family that they cannot catch hepatitis C from you, Even if you are hugging, kissing, or sharing food or utensils.
Tell them that liver C is curable. If it’s caught at an early stage, it can be cured about 98% of the time, says Robert Brown, Jr., chief of gastroenterology and hepatology at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for the love and support of your family.
Hep C Minority Communication
African Americans and some indigenous peoples have higher rates of hepatitis C than other groups. However, very few people know about the disease or are tested for it.
Brown says there are several reasons for this.
“The access to care is less and the trust in the medical system is less,” he says. Stigma [also] A major problem. We need to reduce stigma to remove barriers to care.”
In Brown’s view, “the solution is to reduce stigma so more people can talk about it.” This is the opposite of Nash’s belief that more talk leads to less stigma.
Bedrosian falls somewhere in between. She believes it is best for people to learn how to talk about hepatitis C. She refers to HEP’s outreach programs. It includes a peer-training model that describes how HCV is spread, how to prevent it, and how to educate others.
“This is the best way to receive educational messages, how the taboo is being dismantled little by little,” she says.