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Jennifer Critchlow

"I am a Hep Hero because I was out and proud of my status" 

Adventuress, experimenter, rebel, risk taker are some words that could be used to describe myself - I tried any drug and was an active alcoholic until 1997 when I was 43. Rode a motorcycle around Europe and Africa in 1988 for 9 months, solo. I fight my fears...and refuse to be stopped by them. I'm scared of heights, so I have done a tandem airplane jump and bungy jumped. Became an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1997 and have been drug and alcohol free ever since, and my life is unimaginably good today.
 
I lived with Hep C for 35 years and decided not to be ashamed of my status, was open with everyone I came into contact with, told my class at TAFE to stay away from my blood if I cut myself and educated anyone when possible about the realities of Hep C. I was in the "hard to treat" group until 2014 when I was offered a late place on a trial of the new drugs and was cured of the disease. My viral load dropped to "undetectable" after 3 weeks of taking the medication, but I persisted with the required regime for 3 months - and have been given a clean bill of health.
 
However, not all stories end as well as mine. I have a friend who is dying from liver disease because his alcoholic lifestyle stopped him from caring for his health and getting tested in time. I know another woman whom I support who needs the medication NOW and is going to mortgage her house to raise the money for the drugs. The costs of liver transplants and caring for the dying have got to be higher than the cost of supplying the available drugs for complete cures. Something needs to be done and that is why we should all be involved.
 
From my journey I have learnt that education is preferable to ignorance. We are not "Typhoid Mary". Most people and sexual partners I have told have responded positively to my status when I have explained the ramifications and how difficult it is to get Hep C from someone else except by blood to blood. They just didn't know.
"If hepatitis C is kept secret and underground, it spreads more easily. Knowledge is power. Fear is dangerous - discrimination, bullying and social exclusion all lead to negative outcomes for the person living with Hep C and their families"

Jennifer's message to others:

"If hepatitis C is kept secret and underground, it spreads more easily. Knowledge is power. Fear is dangerous - discrimination, bullying and social exclusion all lead to negative outcomes for the person living with Hep C and their families"