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Help your friends and family help you!

Most people infected with the hepatitis C virus are surprised to learn they have it, thinking they were never at risk and unable to imagine how they contracted it.

At diagnosis and beyond, it is normal to have many questions about your viral infection – where it came from, what it does, what to do about it, and what to expect in the future. For many with hepatitis C, the stigma that can come from having a potentially infectious disease weighs heavily, mentally and emotionally. To take the best possible care of yourself and to deal with stressful thoughts and feelings, it’s essential to get plenty of informed, non-judgmental, compassionate support – both medical and emotional.

Here are some tips and helpful insights:

  • Ask those closest to you to learn about your condition. That way they’ll understand your symptoms, or even go with you to your medical appointments. When you have hepatitis C, it’s invaluable to keep the lines of communication open with trusted friends, family and co-workers: they can’t understand what it’s like to live with hepatitis C if you don’t talk openly about it. Lots of people are uninformed, not up-to-date, and have misperceptions about the disease. They can read this or other Web sites for information, (like the patient resource and advocacy sites listed in this Web site) or they can consult reliable sources of medical information in public libraries or community health clinics.

  • Get their support. Don’t avoid talking to close friends or family about HCV because you’re worried about how they’ll react. Some might be openly supportive right away; some may need to educate themselves before coming around. Remind yourself and others that having a virus is not a moral issue – nor is it a crime. It’s very important to have people you can talk to – don’t pull away from those you care about. Strong, open and honest relationships with select family members and close friends are key to your wellbeing.

  • Be frank about your hepatitis C with people who need to know. Who you tell about your hepatitis C is a personal decision, but there are some people who should be informed of your status: the person(s) from whom you may have contracted hepatitis C, and anyone you may have inadvertently transmitted it to – family, your spouse, your sexual partners, a health care provider – these people should be told. It’s quite unlikely that these people have hepatitis C too, but they should know they might have been exposed to it so they can be tested and treated if necessary.