If you are reading this, perhaps someone you know is living with hepatitis C. You may be afraid that you can “catch it.” Perhaps you assume that your friend or family member has used or is using injection drugs. You may wonder if the person you know is faking or exaggerating the symptoms. Perhaps you’ve asked when that person is going to “get over their disease.”
The following information about hepatitis C may help you understand your friend or loved one’s experience.
- Sometimes hepatitis C is silent, and sometimes it isn’t. There are many symptoms of the virus, such as fatigue, inability to think clearly (brain fog), muscle and joint pain, and depression.
- Hep C is not passed casually. It may be transmitted if there is blood-to-blood contact with an infected person. It isn’t passed by hugging, kissing or drinking out of the same glass. Although there isn’t much proof that hep C can be passed when sharing razors, toothbrushes and any other personal hygiene articles, it is highly suggested that these items not be shared. Don’t freak out if you accidentally use their personal item. It’s unlikely that you will be infected, and a simple blood test will let you know if you are.
- Just because someone has hep C doesn’t mean that they have used drugs. However, if a person has used drugs, they may feel ashamed of this. Try not to judge or blame them, even if they are currently using drugs. We human beings appreciate compassion and understanding; blame and shame are never helpful.
- Be patient with your friend or loved one. Hep C is a curable disease, but sometimes there are obstacles to getting treatment. The person you know with hep C may not be able to get treated for quite some time, and even if they do, it might take time before they feel better.
- Get educated and informed. Spending time learning about hep C shows how much you care.
The person in your life with hepatitis C needs your help and understanding. They live with the stigma, and it will help if you don’t stigmatize them too. They may feel alone, and letting them talk or just spending time with them may relieve the sense of isolation. This doesn’t mean that you need to pity them. Most hepatitis C patients want compassion and understanding, not pity. Don’t try to fix them; just show that you care.