Recognizing and treating stigma

About 2.4 million people in the United States are infected with hepatitis C. The true number is likely higher because more than half of people with hepatitis C don’t know it. The stigma around this infection is one reason many people avoid getting tested.

reach to 95 percent of people with hepatitis C said they had experienced stigma at one time or another. Stigma means feeling judged or discriminated against because of your condition.

However, the stigma does not always come from others. People can experience stigma in the form of shame or embarrassment about their health conditions.

Stigma around hepatitis C can damage personal relationships. It can lead to loneliness and isolation. It can prevent people from getting the treatment they need to treat the disease.

Much of the stigma surrounding hepatitis C is linked to a misunderstanding about the way the virus is spread. It is transmitted from person to person through direct contact with blood carrying the hepatitis virus.

You cannot get hepatitis C from hugging, kissing, or sharing a cup with someone. However, people who do not understand the virus may be afraid to “catch” it.

This fear may lead people with hepatitis C to hide their diagnosis for fear of avoiding them.

Another part of the stigma comes from the association between hepatitis C and intravenous drug use. The most popular The way hepatitis C is transmitted from person to person in the United States is by sharing needles and syringes while using injected drugs.

But this does not mean that everyone is exposed in this way. And even if someone has been exposed to the virus through drug use, they deserve support, not judgment.

People who have used drugs face the double stigma of hepatitis C and addiction. Managing these health conditions can lead to stress and loneliness. It can be hard to find support.

Some of those infected with hepatitis C are also infected with HIV, a virus with its own stigma. Hepatitis C and HIV are both spread through the blood and are associated with intravenous drug use. People with both conditions often have lower self-esteem and feel that others are uncomfortable around them.

Stigma can come from any part of a person’s life, including family, friends, and co-workers. It can even come from a person feeling ashamed or confused about their diagnosis.

Lack of knowledge about the virus and how it spreads can increase stigma. Others may inadvertently ask hurtful questions like, “How did you get it?” or “Will I pick it up?” This is why it is so important to share factual information and build awareness.

Those who worry that their loved ones won’t understand hepatitis C may never reveal their diagnosis. Stigma can drive a wedge between friends, relatives, and romantic partners. It can lead to loneliness and isolation.

Your doctor may seem like the only person who understands what it means to have hepatitis C. But even some clinicians blame or shame their patients for behaviors that may have affected their condition.

a 2017 review of studies She found that this particular form of stigma can create problems with people understanding their diagnosis and seeking treatment. Facing judgment from the medical professionals they have relied on for help can make people feel they do not deserve treatment.

People feel a range of emotions after being diagnosed with hepatitis C. They may feel scared or lonely as they process what the diagnosis means to them. Living with a chronic illness can affect self-esteem, mood, and quality of life.

Stigma can exacerbate the anxiety and stress of living with this condition. It may also prevent people with hepatitis C from getting the support they need to take care of themselves physically and emotionally.

The stigma surrounding hepatitis C prevents some people from even getting tested. Those who avoid testing cannot get the treatment they need to prevent complications such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Even people who have been diagnosed and are undergoing treatment may not continue to take their medication if they do not feel well supported.

Stigma treatment is a complex process. One 2017 study They surprised the researchers when they found, contrary to their hypothesis, that greater knowledge about hepatitis C was associated with greater stigma experience.

Researchers have suggested some possible reasons why a deeper understanding of the virus could lead to feelings of greater stigmatization. Among their reasons:

  • Knowing more about the virus can also mean learning more about stereotypes and stigma, which makes people more aware when they are viewed in this way.
  • An increased fear of stigma may lead people to keep their diagnosis confidential, thus eliminating prospects for support.
  • Fear of passing on to a loved one or complications of an illness can cause internal stigma or shame.

In order to meet the complex needs of those diagnosed with hepatitis C, researchers have suggested that in addition to treating the virus with medication, health care professionals need to treat the person with hepatitis C.

While it is important to educate those diagnosed with the virus, treatment, transmission, and other medical details, more attention should be devoted to dispelling misconceptions, exploring their personal beliefs about the virus, and establishing support.

If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis C, it is important to learn more about what this could mean from reliable sources, to avoid misinformation. You can ask your healthcare professional for more information, or contact your local health department.

You can find online resources from groups like the American Liver Foundation and the Hepatitis C Association.

Share the information you’ve learned with the people in your circle. Let them know that they cannot catch the virus from casual contact such as a handshake or a hug.

You may also feel relief in knowing that hepatitis C is highly treatable. Direct-acting antivirals treat the virus within 8 to 12 weeks in most people who take them. However, keep in mind that treatment may not ease an emotional reaction to your diagnosis.

It’s a good idea to find a doctor who has experience treating hepatitis C. You should feel comfortable talking to your doctor about your condition, without judging you. You can seek treatment to help manage the emotions and feelings that a diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C can bring.

It’s normal to feel anxious or afraid when you’re diagnosed with a condition such as hepatitis C. And because of the stigma surrounding the condition, you may not get enough support from the people closest to you.

Know that you have places to turn to for help. Organizations such as the American Liver Foundation offer hepatitis C support groups. These groups provide a safe space to meet other people who have hepatitis C, learn how to manage your condition, and be surrounded by people who know exactly what you’re going through.

If a support group isn’t enough, you may want to talk to one person at a time. Some therapists, counselors, and other mental health professionals specialize in dealing with stigma and other issues related to chronic conditions.

Hepatitis C is a disgraceful disease. Stigma can have a direct impact on the delivery of care and the quality of life for people with this condition.

Knowledge and support are essential to breaking the stigma and ensuring that everyone with hepatitis C gets the care they need.

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