Hepatitis C Care: Check Your Biases at the Door

International Conference on Viral Hepatitis (ICVH) 2014

Helen-Maria Lekas, PhD; Gloria J. Searson, MSW; Alyson L. Harty, RN, BSN; William Thompson


June 23, 2014

In This Article

Editor's Note: During the International Conference on Viral Hepatitis, held in New York, some of the participants in a panel discussion titled "Patient Perspectives on What Providers Need to Know About Stigma and Other Barriers to Hepatitis Care"[1] convened afterwards for a discussion. During the conversation, they discussed the stigma surrounding hepatitis C and some of the barriers to diagnosis and treatment for patients.

Living With Hepatitis C

Helen-Maria Lekas, PhD: My name is Helen-Maria Lekas. I am from Columbia University, and I am in New York at the International Conference on Viral Hepatitis. I'm here with a panel of experts, including Gloria Searson, Alyson Harty, and William Thompson. I would like to start by asking you about stigma. As patients and experts living with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, what do you want your providers to know about the stigma associated with the disease?

Gloria J. Searson, MSW: Stigma is horrible. I don't want to be looked at or judged, and I don't want you to bring your biases into the room with us. I just want you to treat me as a human being and take care of the problem.

Alyson Harty, RN, BSN: I agree, from both the provider and patient perspective. When I was 17 and I found out I had HCV, I didn't want to tell any of my friends. You don't want your friends knowing that you have a virus because it's often associated with other viruses that have a broad stigma against them, and there is no need. You got it -- however you got it, you got it -- let's solve the problem.

Dr. Lekas: What can providers do to ameliorate the stigma associated with HCV?

William Thompson: One thing that I find very important is the support group that I go to. We get a lot of information from the doctor and we also get a lot of information from other patients. To me, stigma is like "sticks and stones can break my bones." It doesn't really affect me. I don't think anybody can say anything to me that would make me feel bad about my condition, especially when you have conditions yourself. It's all up to the individual in how you feel about it.


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