USER'S STORY: ON THE ROAD WITH JACK
I was made a Ward of the State at 13. I was discharged at 16, given two weeks' notice to find a place to live or I would be referred to a men's shelter. I ended up renting a room and fell in with a much older guy. He would come in my window at night when I was asleep and give me a shot of ice, then I'd go and rob for him. It's always been uppers for me, for over ten years.
That guy used to give me the ice already mixed up, in the syringe. I think that's how I got hep C. I know now not to let other people mix up my shots, especially someone who doesn't give a fuck about me. But then it was about getting free drugs, so I didn't even think about it.
I've been in jail three times. After I got out the last time, I ended up in a country town with a mate of mine who was a local and I haven't left. I like it. I fell in love here and we're pretty happy. I'd like a ring on her finger; I'm hoping that will happen soon. She's got kids and I see them as my kids too. I see I have responsibilities towards them, like being as healthy as I can be so I can care for them.
I thought my hep C would be a deal breaker for my relationship. One day not long after I had hooked up with my girlfriend, we were driving down the road and we see some people who use drugs. She says, "Look at those filthy disease ridden fuck-ups". I knew they were like me; she was talking about me. I felt terrible. So I really thought on that and a few days later I said to her "Look, I don't think we're going to work out." She says, "No, don't say that, we're doing really well." I bit the bullet and said "You remember those "filthy disease ridden" drug users? Well I've got that disease, I've got hep C. If that's what you think of them, that's what you think of me." She backpedalled, "Fuck, I shouldn't have said that, that was a stupid thing to say". She was shocked but she thanked me for my honesty and apologised for being judgmental. In the end she was supportive and we're still together.
I found out I had hep C last time I was in jail but I didn't do anything about it.
The nurse in jail told me I could pass it on to other people through my blood, so I have been really careful about that, not sharing my fits with anyone else. When you are in a situation where there are more people than there are new fits, the anxiety levels really go up. I've gone last in those situations, knowing I had hep C. Even if I knew someone else there had it too and it was risky. More than anything, I don't want to transmit hep C to someone else. I would hate that.
I did start slowly telling people in my family. It was my Dad who found out about the new treatments. He rang me because he had seen something on TV. He told me to go to a GP and ask. I did that, but the doctor here in town didn't know anything about it.
The doctor asked me about drugs and alcohol. I haven't injected every day or even every week for a couple of years now. Sometimes I use behind my girlfriend's back, but not very often. But I was drinking every day. The GP told me that unless I gave up alcohol, there was nothing doing, he wouldn't recommend me for treatment for anything.
I tried to stop drinking on my own, cold turkey. I didn't realise how dangerous that was with alcohol and I had a seizure.
I was referred to a drug and alcohol counsellor. He told me I could be treated for hep C even if I was drinking or using. He set me up with some appointments at a community clinic where I feel respected. I've learned a lot about hep C in the process. I've had my bloods done to find out my genotype and have a fibroscan booked. When all the results come together, I am going on treatment.
Drinking so much is definitely affecting my health. I just got onto naltrexone to try and stop drinking. I'm doing really well. And I will do the hep C treatment. I want to be healthy. I don't want to infect people. I don't want to have to tell people I have hep C, but I don't want to have to feel that I am holding something important from someone I love. I just want it gone.
TIP: If your GP won’t refer you for Hep C treatment, ring the Hepatitis Infoline on 1-800-803-990