EDITORIAL: DEALING WITH STIGMA AND DISCRIMINATION
We are pleased to bring you some info and stories about the news on everyone’s lips: the new hep c treatments are being taken up by people who use drugs. They are open to everyone with a Medicare card, they are much improved in terms of how the medication is taken, length of treatment and side effects ... and they are successful in clearing the virus in more than 95% of cases!
The federal and state governments have combined to make the new hep c treatments available, easier to get on and cheaper than ever before. I have spoken to many people with various genotypes who have experienced similar results - the end of night sweats, more energy, increased self-esteem. All of them are wholehearted in recommending these medications. They work!
What else works? Well, people who use drugs do. As well as talking to you about hep c, we have brought you a number of stories and articles related to people who use drugs who are in the work-force.
Of course, we could have filled these pages with a massive, joyous list of all the people who use drugs who happily go to work, earn their pay, earn respect, then go home to loved ones at the end of the shift. Instead we have brought you stories and info that will have some practical value to you.
People who use drugs work in all sorts of industries from manufacturing to hospitality, from health to art and music, from banking to the environment. We all have our passions and our talents. We find self-esteem and pleasure in doing a job well. In this, we are not a separate sub-culture but simply participants in this wider world we live in. We are the world. We are your journalist and your bank teller, your doctor and your train guard...
Sadly, sometimes things go wrong. Stigma and discrimination slips its ugly claws into the smallest of gaps, often when we are most vulnerable, when we are reaching out for help. For many of us we face a double blast of discrimination - as well as being people who use drugs, we are living with hepatitis and/or HIV. Sometimes we are plagued by the results of prohibition, our conviction record - in most cases low level non-violent charges related to our drug use - dogging our desire for a quiet life. Or we find little support from employers when we confront health issues as we get older, after a lifetime of pushing our bodies, despite good work records and employee loyalty.
Stigma and discrimination not only affects our mental health, it can stop us from accessing necessary health services. Sometimes access is officially blocked, like the bad old days when you couldn’t get hep c treatment if you were using drugs or homeless - thank fuck that one has changed. Sometimes it’s hidden. Sometimes we know we will be treated unfairly and we just find ourselves unable to confront the risk of rejection or the stares and whispers that go along with trying to get a fair go for ourselves.
Make no mistake about it though: stigma and discrimination kill. We can’t allow that to happen in our community. We must fight it.
People who use drugs have the same right to opportunities as everyone else... to be recognised for our talent and skills.
I encourage you - if you are a person who uses drugs and are living with hep c, then getting on treatment will relieve you of one of the big drivers of stigma and discrimination. To no longer have hep c on your files will make life a lot easier, apart from the obvious effect on your health, now and in the future.