Stigma linked with Hepatitis C
It is very unfortunate, that a disease like hepatitis C even today is stigmatized.It is mainly because of lack of knowledge about the disease or a complete ignorance impact over it. The infectious nature of this disease is somewhere responsible for its big linkup with stigma. The ignorance about hep C transmission and few myths about it are largely due to lack of knowledge.
A huge number of the population still believes it spreads via kissing, hugging or drinking and eating in same utensils. The fact is its transmission is only possible via blood-to-blood direct contact of the infected person. There is a big fear of catching infection amongst people so they shield themselves by ignoring Hep C people. There are a few communities in which they hide their hep C status because they have a fear of being ignored or completely shunned by their own people. Endless people have lost their jobs, relationships, and even friends all due to ignorance about this disease.
There is another aspect which relates to the presence of hep C stigma which involves injection drug users. Normally it has become a taboo of addiction about people who administer the drug via injection. People do not understand completely about the need for injection drug administration and lack of compassion usually overrules the drug administration route need here. So a person suffering from Hep C not only carries the burden of stigma but also is treated at times as addictive.
It is a myth that all drug abusers acquire hep c however, the fact is a person with no drug addiction history can also acquire Hep C. But that label of addiction is still carried by the disease victim because people do not understand the facts of disease. It further reduces the self-esteem and impacts the mental status of the person negatively and builds up a fear of not revealing hep C status amongst society. It also restricts an HCV-positive person to approach for medical treatment for the same at times; out of shame and stigma it has build up.
It seems the suffering of stigma would be more than hep C itself. Since there appear so many barriers from revealing the status to reach out for treatment.
So following are a few points by which this stigma can be minimized:
- Getting complete knowledge about the disease and its transmission ways is essential. So education must be imparted about the same to communities.
- Hep C positive person must take a stand and confront society challenging all stereotypes. He or she must not solely represent themselves as a coward victim of a disease.
- You must yourself begin in bringing the change in society and let others know what actually the disease is like and how much suffering it brings along.
- An HCV positive patient must seek for a similar company for mental stability in case others shun him or her etc.
Bringing change in society takes ages and is not easy as well. However, a good beginning will make the journey easier for many in the future.
What is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a highly infectious disease which is, caused by hepatitis C virus. This disease mainly impacts the liver. It spreads via direct blood contact with the infectious blood. It can also be, passed on via sexual contact or in utero by mother to fetus during pregnancy.
This disease is slowly progressive in nature. It can transform from a mild flu-like illness to a severe life treating condition that can severely damage the liver for life long causing inflammation and tissue scarring.
Symptoms of Hep C:
It is highly difficult to predict the HCV infection initially only through symptoms. However, as the disease progresses its different stages give more prominent and serious symptoms to confirm the disease besides a blood test. It is a life-threatening disease and consists of acute, chronic, and end-stage with significant symptoms of each stage.
During the Incubation period:
The disease usually, a person do not show any significant symptoms. After exposure with virus; it takes at least four to seven weeks and some times even as long as six months for the symptoms to appear. Since its a slowly progressing disease and incubation time might vary from one person to another.
During Acute Hepatitis stage:
only a bunch of symptoms begin to appear which are mild and flu-like initially. Symptoms include– fatigue and tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, diarrhea, joint and muscle pain, and jaundice. A prominent yellowing of the skin and eyes with a change in urine and stool color appears in this stage. In this stage, the virus hits the hepatocytes (liver cells) and triggers lymphocyte formation against it, which in turn kills the infected liver cells causing a permanent liver damage.
During Chronic Hepatitis stage:
HCV replicates in a span of six to seven months however the symptoms remain nearly the same with more prominence. Few additional symptoms include-weight loss, abdominal pain, and abdominal swelling, bleeding or bruising etc.
During an End-stage Hepatitis C
HCV infection reaches a point when liver cirrhosis occurs. In this; the liver is, damaged to an extent that it loses its functional ability which impacts the body as well. Further disease progression can lead to decompensated cirrhosis when liver its fully non-functional. Additional symptoms include- Behavioral changes due to mental and memory instability, trouble walking, extreme weakness, itching etc.
Hepatitis C is treatable today but its stigma still does not appears to be fading. All the wrong myths must be, overruled by actual facts and knowledge. This can only lessen the suffering of the HCV positive people. A similar compassion and care, required by any Hep C person than any other diseased person. Do not delay or ignore if you notice any symptoms get a Hepatitis C Test; done with complete privacy of your home.