New Helpline Established for British Columbians with Hep C

Peer-to-peer counselling for people with hepatitis C has been available in the United States for several years. Now people in British Columbia have their own help line through the Pacific Hepatitis C Network.

This is great news for Canadians who have hepatitis C and want to talk with someone who has had their own experience with the disease. The toll free number for British Columbians is 1 888 411 7578. Ask for Daryl Luster.

For the U.S. helpline, please call 877-435-7443.

Found another criticism of the hep C scenes on Wentworth

A reader, Deb, commented that she hopes there is a loud outcry in Britain about Wentworth’s portrayal of people who have hep C. I hunted through the internet and found just one other blog besides AfterEllen that is critical of the show’s implications about hep. The blog is called Jo’s Voice .

Blogger Jo Soucek, whom I believe  is Australian, says Wentworth is right to create awareness of hepatitis C, but the show should get its facts straight. The facts include that lots of good people contract hep. TV watchers should keep in mind that fiction can differ wildly from facts.TV watching

Wentworth not hep about hep C

Last night I was watching the Netflix series Wentworth. The show focuses on inmates at a seedy women’s prison in Australia. The series’ plot is riveting but unfortunately, it spreads inaccurate and stereotypical information about hepatitis C.

In Season 2, during a prison riot, a  hep-infected prisoner attacks prison guard Vera with a hep C-infected syringe. In Season 3 the viewer learns that Vera has come down with hep. Then Liz, a long-term con, tries to protect her daughter Sophie from three huge butch women who attack her as she cowers in a shower stall. The women imply they are infected with hepatitis C and will give it to Sophie through lesbian rape (pretty much an impossibility).

The show perpetrates the message that people with hep C are likely to be evil. TV critic Elaine Atwell, in the blog AfterEllen, says the show portrays hepatitis C as “a disease of which the first symptom is apparently soul rot.” Vera the jittery, diminutive guard falls into that stereotype. She has murdered her mother.

In addition to unacceptable characterization of hep patients in the series, I noticed factual problems about the disease itself. These include a blurred line between acute and chronic hep (Vera appears to have both), and Vera’s treatment, which seems to be a pack of huge white pills that she takes at odd times to quell nausea. As for the way the series perpetrates the stigma of hepatitis C, the producers and writers should think twice and learn the facts about this disease. Not just prisoners come down with hepatitic C. Millions of very nice people, including many of their viewers, do too.

The stigma of hepatitis C can hide in a family

When I started this blog about hepatitis C, I didn’t plan to write about the stigma associated with the illness. About a year ago, just after my diagnosis, I was scrambling for information on treatment and on the prognosis of my disease, so that’s what I tended to write about. When I told my friends about my infection, most were sympathetic and helpful.

But this morning, a month after I learned I am 100% clear of hepatitis, the stigma hit home, literally. Home as in family. Home as in people you should be able to trust with your tribulations. Home as in a younger sister who might have been more comforting during the brief phone call I had with her this morning. It was brief because I lost it. I hung up on her.

My younger sister and I were talking about my mother, a tiny but spry 98-year-old who weighs 80 pounds and looks like a human, famished Tweety bird. My sister had just moved my mother to temporary lodgings at my nephew’s house, and we were discussing the housing situation. My sister asked me why, when I visited her in Florida, I stayed at my older sister’s house instead of hers.

“Mary has an internet connection, which I need for my work,” I said.

“I have an internet connection.”

“Mary has some nice roads around her house, and I like to go for walks to keep healthy.”

“I have very nice roads around my house where you can walk.”

“Well, I like staying in the room Mary has with the connecting bathroom.”

That’s where our niece stays, my sister declared. “She has hepatitis C, and it sits there for two weeks in bathrooms. It can sit on something for seven to 10 days.”

I had never told my sister that I had hep because I knew she would tell my mother. I didn’t want my mother worrying about me in her fragile old age. But it never occurred to me that anyone in my family would  propagate the stigma that is so hurtful to people who have hep. So I spewed out my story. I told my sister I had contracted hepatitis C from a blood transfusion the day after my daughter was born. I told her she was wrong, wrong, wrong. It is impossible to get hep from a toilet set.

Then she claimed she had done her own research and was sure that it could happen.

“I’m writing a book on the topic. I’ve read hundreds of research studies. It’s impossible for that to happen!”

“But, but . . .”

I hung up.

After running this through my brain for several hours, I am cooling down. Hepatitis can hide in your body for decades. Prejudice can hide in your family. But your family will always be your family. We can give them the benefit of the doubt for their ignorance and show them the compassion that everyone deserves. I will probably soon apologize to my sister for hanging up on her.