Who is Chris?
Chris lives alone in Sydney, Australia, and works in aged care and disability support. He describes his ethnic background as ‘Australian’: like both of his parents, Chris was born in Australia. For Chris, curing hepatitis C in his mid-fifties was ‘great’ and meant that he could ‘just go off and forget about [it]’ and ‘worry about the next thing’.
Chris was diagnosed with hepatitis C in the early 1990s. He was very conscious of the stigma surrounding the virus and chose not to tell many people about his diagnosis. After speaking with his parents, Chris had to assure his father that he wasn’t at risk from hepatitis C. He was cured of hepatitis C using the new treatment around 2016, an experience that exceeded his expectations. To Chris, it was ‘great’ to cure hepatitis C, and he was happy to know that it was no longer damaging his liver.
Stigma is serious issue for Chris, who says he initially didn’t tell many people about his diagnosis because he didn’t want to be ‘stigmatised or demonised or rejected’. He explains that when he told his parents about the hepatitis C a few years after his diagnosis, it made his father worry about his own health:
‘[Dad said,] “Oh gee, I’m an old man, you shouldn’t be coming up here [visiting].” And I said, “You know what, Dad? I have been around you guys for years and none of you have dropped dead. I have been working with clients and everyone, and no-one has died because of my [hep C], you know. It’s not how it works. I can tell you how it works and what you need to know, but don’t worry if I come up for your birthday and we all eat cake – you are [not] going to die of hepatitis, it doesn’t work like that.”’
At the time Chris knew that the older, interferon-based treatments were hard to manage, often caused severe side effects and the success rate was low, and he says he would ‘never [have] gone near’ them. Around 2016, however, when Chris was in his mid-fifties, his doctor told him about the new treatment. Interested, he remembers researching them himself and finding out that he could ‘get rid of it, and [that] it only takes 12 weeks and has a 95% success rate’. He remembers thinking then that the treatment ‘just seemed too good not to do’. As he explains, ‘I told people that I know who would be interested as well and a few of us all went off and got cured.’
Chris says that he was motivated to have treatment so he could be ‘free’ from hepatitis C and know that ‘it wasn’t silently wrecking [his] liver from within’. His treatment experience ‘exceeded’ his expectations. Although he initially planned to take a week off work in case the treatment made him tired, he says the treatment was ‘gentle and unassuming and unnoticeable’. As he explains, ‘I just had this pill every day and that was it, and 12 weeks later it was done […] It was really benign and gentle.’
Curing hepatitis C was important for Chris, who explains that he ‘felt better knowing that it was gone’ and that he ‘didn’t have any liver damage or any cirrhosis’. He is, he says, ‘just happy to know now that the virus itself is no longer chipping away and damaging [him] from within’. Overall, he describes getting rid of hepatitis C as a ‘great thing’ because now he can ‘just go off and forget about [it]’ and ‘worry about the next thing’.
Like Marty, Chris (M, 60, experience with new treatment [DAAs]) also says that he didn’t worry much about hepatitis C because it didn’t seem to affect him. Chris postponed his treatment until the new medication was available.
[When I found out I had hepatitis C] I did nothing. I didn’t want to do anything and I was always saying to my doctor, ‘It doesn’t worry me … it doesn’t affect me and that interferon is so awful, why would you bother? In the future, we will see what happens’. Well in the future the 12-week Harvoni cure came up and I jumped at it.
Chris (M, 60, experience with new treatment [DAAs]) says that when he had hepatitis C, he was more careful when injecting with other people, because he didn’t want others to acquire it from him.
I am very conscious of the harm reduction […approach to] drug use, which is a really good thing. I am glad that the state has taken that attitude rather than just trying to withhold needles and make it a very difficult thing to inject. So, I have always been careful … since I had hepatitis C, I was always more careful about making sure that things were clean and separate if I was around people using drugs […] When it comes to injecting, which you often do with other people, it’s really important that we don’t share equipment. [It’s important] that we keep things separate, that we only use needles once, that we use alcoholic swabs. I mean, the whole harm reduction and care with body fluids is so much more focussed on and followed [these days].
While Chris (M, 60, experience with new treatment [DAAs]) doesn’t speak about side effects directly, he describes the new treatment as ‘gentle’.
I didn’t [know] what to expect, but it was so gentle and unassuming and unnoticeable. I just had this pill every day and that was it, and 12 weeks later it was done […] It was like the beginning of the disease [hep C] where you know you’ve got it, but it doesn’t bother you [with any symptoms, so you] think it doesn’t matter. The treatment was kind of the same, it was really benign and gentle.