Children are one third of our population and all of our future. ~Select Panel for the Promotion of Child Health, 1981
I am looking for a teenager with hepatitis C who is willing to speak to a teen I know who is feeling alone, a teen who was recently diagnosed with hepatitis C and doesn’t want anyone to know he/she has it. To protect this teen’s anonymity, I am not even going to disclose gender information in this blog.
Like most children who have hepatitis C, this teen acquired hepatitis C at birth. Teens who are newly infected, usually acquire hepatitis C through injection drug use and other high-risk behaviors. Tattoo and piercing parties have been in the news recently as other potential arenas for hepatitis C exposure, although there are no data on these.
It is estimated that there are 23,000 to 46,000 children in the US with hepatitis C. According to the American Liver Foundation, the majority of hepatitis C-positive children have “mild liver disease with upwards of 80% with minimal to no scarring of the liver (fibrosis) by 18 years of age. A subset of children, 20-25% can have more aggressive disease and can develop advanced scarring of the liver (cirrhosis) as early as 8 years of age. While hepatitis C is the leading indication for liver transplantation in adults, it is a very rare indication for liver transplantation in children.”
Adolescents who acquire hepatitis C by high-risk behaviors have outcomes that are similar to that of adults. Many will go on to develop chronic liver disease with cirrhosis in 20-30 years.
I am not worried about the liver health of the teen that contacted me. I am more concerned about his/her psychological health. Adolescence is difficult enough without the additional burden of hepatitis C and its stigma. A friend would help.
The rest of you: Let’s raise awareness and cure hepatitis C so we don’t have to subject our youth to this. Haven’t we lost enough?