Who is Dana?
Dana lives with her teenage son in Melbourne, Australia. She describes her ethnic background as ‘Australian’: like both of her parents, Dana was born in Australia. Her primary source of income is a social security benefit for people living with a disability.* Dana is currently considering having a hepatitis C test.
Dana first learnt about hepatitis C in the early 2000s when she had a sexual health check after meeting a new partner. Although she was tested regularly for sexually transmissible infections and blood-borne viruses when she used to do sex work, she says she still doesn’t know much about hepatitis C or how it affects you. Dana regularly uses heroin with a friend who injects her, and she is uncertain about the kinds of precautions she should take to minimise transmission. As she explains, given the friend she injects with may have had hepatitis C or still does, Dana is considering asking the doctor who prescribes her buprenorphine [an opioid pharmacotherapy medication] for a test.
Although she tested regularly for sexually transmissible infections and blood-borne viruses when she used to do sex work, she says she still doesn’t know much about hepatitis C or its effects. She recalls being given information about testing but not the ‘disease itself’:
‘The only thing I think I ever received is a little brochure once, and it was about hepatitis and then it had a few numbers or letters under it, like, I think it was A, B, C or something, I don’t know. And all it said was that it can be transmitted intravenously, [or through the] sharing of instruments […] so it was more telling you what to do, but nothing actually about the disease itself.’ Her most recent test for hepatitis C was in 2012.
Dana takes heroin with a friend who injects her, and is uncertain about the kinds of precautions she should take to minimise the risk of transmission. She explains that he often suggests she be injected first: ‘[I don’t] necessarily share a needle, but I do share a spoon and tourniquet, and someone else injects me who did have hep C but reckons he is okay now, but I don’t know. It’s his word. I don’t think he is lying to me but, yeah.’
Given she regularly injects with her friend, Dana is considering asking the doctor who prescribes her buprenorphine [an opioid pharmacotherapy medication] for a test: ‘He is the one I am going to ask for a test, and I am going to mention to him when I have an appointment soon, “Hey, do you think I should get a blood test and find out that I am still safe and that I don’t have anything?”’
She says she’s not sure how much a positive result would matter, as her friend told her the new treatment for hepatitis C is easy to manage and effective: ‘The guy who I share with, to him it seems to be not a very big deal at all, like [he says], “If you get it, they will cure you and off you go,” but I don’t know if that’s quite true. I don’t know if it cures everyone or is it as simple as that, I don’t know.’
Dana hopes this website will help people become more informed about hepatitis C and the need for regular testing.
*Services Australia Disability Support Pension.
Dana (F, 53, no treatment experience) says that her main fear if she acquired hepatitis C would be passing it on to her children.
My only concern is if I got a disease, can I pass it on to my children? […] Yeah, that’s my only concern. I don’t give a damn about me, to be honest. Well, I would want to know what’s going to happen to me, am I going to get sick or what’s going to happen to me, but my main concern is, if I am diseased, can I spread it at home? What do I need to do, what do I need to be careful of?
Reflecting on ways to increase awareness about treatment, Dana (F, 53, no treatment experience) addresses stereotypes about who can acquire hepatitis C. She says that more information is needed to explain that the virus can affect many different groups of people. She suggests including hepatitis C tests in general health check-ups.
Non–drug users can get hep C [and] it would be good to have that written somewhere, like, you know, [that] you don’t need to be an IV drug user or a sex worker, anybody can catch it. You know it’s something that should […be part of a medical] check-up, you know, like your yearly check-up or something at your doctor, along with other things that you get done, like your cholesterol and your heart and stuff. So, you know what I am trying to say? That would be nice.
Dana (F, 53, no treatment experience) says that she’s heard that the new treatment is a ‘simple’ way of curing hepatitis C, and for that reason, getting hepatitis C is not a ‘big deal’. However, she doesn’t feel well informed about the disease and is unsure what to think.
[I wonder whether…] I should be worried about [hep C] because […] the guy that I […] share [injecting equipment] with, to him [hep C] seems to be not a very big deal at all. Like, [he says that] if you get it, they will cure you, and off you go. But I don’t know if that’s quite true, I don’t know if it cures everyone or is it simple as that. I don’t know.