Community Advocate, Public Speaker
"I am a Hep Hero because I find it abhorrent to stigmatise, discriminate, dehumanise and to hold ill informed ignorant views.”
In 2005, I became very unwell both physically and mentally. Some two years later, under the great care of my GP, I was diagnosed with chronic Hepatitis C. Although it doesn’t matter how I contracted it, it was most likely though sharing syringes. However, I did receive a couple of blood transfusions before screening was adopted, and I have a couple of tattoos also.
From this point, I was trying to get my head around what this all meant. My GP had told me “that, by law, I had to be placed on a register disclosing my condition”… that made me feel quite uncomfortable. My thoughts were saying, “What discrimination is this?” However, when I thought it through to its end conclusion it made good sense.
My doctor started the ball rolling with referrals to Westmead Hospital (Sydney) where I met a few exceptional liver specialists. From this point on I was invaded with tests, blood tests, a biopsy, scans, x-rays, ultrasounds, ARFI, etc.
At this time I chose not to start treatment, mainly because of the side effects, especially on mental health. Although I had the medical information, it was the information and advice regarding treatment, stigma and discrimination that I felt I needed to understand fully before undertaking treatment.
In late 2012, because of my deteriorating health, I decided it was time to follow up exactly what state was my liver. I found out that I needed to make a decision regarding treatment. I decided to undertake treatment and the side effects for me were disgusting. Three months after treatment, the virus was undetectable.
Because of my mental health, my addictions and later on Hep C I have always experienced stigma and discrimination to varying degrees sometimes excruciatingly so. I have lost employment; I have lost people that I have felt close to whom I thought were friends, etc. all to stigma, discrimination and ignorance. I puzzle at the reasons why these types of attitude exist at all. So education and advocacy I believe is the best way forward for real change, hence my passion and direction educating, public speaking, advocacy.
Today I am not ashamed or embarrassed by my mental illness diagnoses, or my drug and alcohol addictions, or the fact that I have been diagnosed with chronic hepatitis C. I do, however, feel very sad for those who choose “Ignorance over Education” and “Discrimination over Empathy”.