Who is Amelia?
Amelia lives with her partner and young child in Melbourne, Australia. Her primary source of income is a social security benefit for primary carers of young children.* She describes her ethnic background as ‘Australian’: like both of her parents, Amelia was born in Australia. She was cured of hepatitis C with the new treatment in 2017, which she described as ‘the best possible medication’.
Amelia was diagnosed with hepatitis C while she was pregnant with her son, and postponed treatment until after she had given birth. After initially finding it difficult to take her hepatitis medication regularly due to homelessness, a friend suggested that she have it stored at the chemist she used to access her opioid pharmacotherapy. This arrangement helped and she was cured of hepatitis C soon after. For Amelia, completing treatment was ‘really satisfying’ and gave her a ‘feeling of accomplishment’.
Because she was pregnant at the time, she decided to postpone treatment until after the birth of her son. Reflecting on this experience, she remembers thinking that because she had ‘created a little person’, along with someone who ‘also had hep C, obviously, his dad’, she was surprised that their son didn’t acquire the virus too.
Once she had given birth, Amelia’s doctor advised her to take the new treatment. While she followed his advice, she found it difficult to take her medication consistently. As she explains, her ‘life situation’, including a period of homelessness, presented obstacles and made treatment ‘last on [her] list to do’. She describes how, for three-quarters of the 12-week course of medication, she took it in ‘dribs and drabs’: ‘out of seven days of the week, I was lucky if I took it four times a week’.
During this time she was also taking opioid pharmacotherapy, so a friend suggested that she arrange with her dispensing chemist to store the hepatitis C medication for her. That way, when she visited the chemist to take her methadone, she could take her hepatitis C medication as well. She remembers that this arrangement ‘really worked because, then, the last quarter [of treatment], I took really seriously, and I actually got cured just on that quarter’.
Thinking about the effects of curing hepatitis C, she describes a positive feeling of ‘not being sick’ any more and ‘not being able to pass it on to anybody else’. She also explains that, for her, cure was part of being able to ‘lead as normal life as possible and not having to feel like [she] was stepping on eggshells or being judged’ by other people.
For Amelia, completing hepatitis C treatment was ‘really satisfying’ and gave her a ‘feeling of accomplishment’. She says she is ‘just happy’ she ‘got better and got over it’ with the ‘best possible medication’.
Amelia says that given she isn’t consuming drugs any more, she isn’t too worried about getting hepatitis C again: ‘I hope, like, knock on my wood, that I don’t start [injecting again]. If I was using drugs, it would probably be a different answer, like, I probably would say, “Yes, [I] fear re-catching it,” but because I’m not using at the moment, I guess I don’t have that fear’.
*Services Australia Parenting Payment.
Amelia (F, 41, experience with new treatment [DAAs]), for example, was especially worried about the welfare of her unborn child after she was diagnosed in 2016.
I guess when I initially heard him [the doctor] say, ‘You’re positive for hep C’, my stomach dropped, but him making it sound like a positive thing, not a negative thing, changed my feelings. Because it was all in the appointment […] I was like, ‘Oh shit’, you know, [asking] ‘Where do we go from here? Am I going to die?’ You know, I still sort of had those feelings, but then by the end of that appointment, [my doctor] said, ‘You know it’s been … it’s the best time to have hep C right now, because […of the new treatment], it’s got this success rate and blah, blah, blah’ and all this stuff. I was like, ‘Well, if [that’s what] you reckon?’ I still had half a smile on my face and half a frown, you know. I guess I was more worried about, to be honest, the baby than myself. If anything, I was more worried about my son at the time, and yet again, [my doctor] eased my mind with that. So then I was just like, ‘Okay, sweet, we can get [the treatment] started once I’ve had the baby’.
Amelia (F, 41, experience with new treatment [DAAs]) describes trying keep her treatment private while living with someone she didn’t know well, and says this meant she often forgot to take it.
I had gone through some [family violence] so we had, sort of like, broke up and I’d left the home. I was renting and then, yeah, [I] ended up, sort of like, homeless [and then] ended up living on a stranger’s couch, like a friend of a friend, and living there for a little bit and then moving from there […] So yeah, it’s been a crazyish couple of years. You are not really wanting certain people to know [about your hep C treatment], because they will judge you. […] So yeah, then you kind of hide your medication, and then you’re not taking it any more, and then you’re taking it whenever. So, it was extremely hard, and then, yeah, you kind of just stop all together and then … or every time you see it, once a month or [so], you go, ‘Oh hang on I’ll take it’ – as if it’s going to do anything. Yeah, I don’t know what you’re hoping for when you take that one [time] in a month.
Amelia (F, 41, experience with new treatment [DAAs]) describes the new treatment as the ‘best’, given she knows that past treatment could have made her ‘sick’.
I guess [I got] a sense of accomplishment [from treatment] and, yeah, [I was] just happy that, yeah, I got better and got over it and through it with the best possible medication, as well. Like, knowing that I could’ve been on the old medication and it could possibly [have] been making me sick […] To be honest, I thought this was really a wonder drug to be able to do that, because I seriously thought that when my results would come back, [the] doctor would be like, ‘No, we’ve got to do another 12-week course’.