LETTER TO THE EDITOR: SHE MUST HAVE IT TOO
Dear User's News,
Almost 20 years ago I was diagnosed with hep C. My husband and I attended the sexual health clinic at a major Western Sydney hospital and were given the news together — we were both hep C positive. Back then not a lot of information was available, so I slowly had to learn what living with hep C meant for me.
"Dirty fuckin junkies, now got their own disease!”
"They should round them all up and shoot them. Just don't let their blood get on you. Hahaha."
"Yeah, I don’t wanna be drinking out a cup they’ve used."
"We have a right to know who these people are."
This from my co-workers. They didn't know I was positive.
Looking back, I find it hard to believe that people had these opinions. Nowadays, I'd definitely call out anyone who spoke like that. I just didn't have the tools or experience to do so at that time.
After a few years, I just got used to living with hep C. We had to teach our daughter not to share toothbrushes or razors. We made sure to try to eat well. We were kind to ourselves. But we never considered getting the interferon treatment. The side effects were just too much.
Fast forward 18 years to this new, enlightened age of hep C, with new treatment and less stigma. I wanted to get tested again, but really hesitated due to the condition of my veins. A new doctor that had been highly recommended to me offered to do the blood work himself. He seemed so confident that I let him go ahead. He got a vein first try (yes, I go back to him for everything now!)
The very next day, He rang me to ask where and when I had been diagnosed. Turned out, I had never had hep C. But I had lived as though I had it and experienced the trauma of stigma and discrimination. Even the misdiagnosis, I believe, was the result of discrimination — "if one of them is positive, the other one will be too".
I had also had the benefits that come with eating well and being kind to yourself, and a drive to educate myself about the health issues surrounding injecting drug use. User's News played a large part in that education.
If I learnt anything from this, it is to treat others as though you have the virus — i.e. never share equipment as you don't want to infect others.
And treat yourself as though you don't have the virus — i.e. never share equipment, you don't want to infect yourself.
Thank you, UN, for all the great info over the years.
Thanks for your letter on this important topic. Thank you also for your sweet words about User’s News (and you’re very welcome!).
You are one of many people I have heard from who have been misdiagnosed as having hep C or have found they have cleared it since their initial diagnosis. Thanks for reminding us how important it is to get tested for hep C on a regular basis if you’re at risk — at least yearly.
It is totally possible to have a test mix-up as you experienced, but more likely to clear hep C without treatment, like in Serena’s story in this edition. In fact, it is estimated that around a quarter of people who test positive for hep C actually clear it spontaneously. Just because you have been told you have hep C once doesn’t mean this will never change.
The reverse is also true. Just because you have cleared hep C doesn’t mean you won’t ever get it again. The only way to avoid hep C is to use all new equipment — fits, spoons, tourniquets etc — every single time you inject, never sharing any of it. Even if you are living with hep C, you need to be safe.
I hope you stay hep C free always, Kyla!