Who is Rebecca?
Rebecca lives with her parents and brother in Sydney, Australia. She describes her ethnic background as ‘Greek’: she was born in Australia, one of her parents has Greek background and was born in Australia and the other was born in North Africa. Her primary source of income is a social security benefit for people who are unemployed.* She says being cured of hepatitis C was part of a process of starting to live what she calls a ‘normal life’.
Rebecca acquired hepatitis C from a needlestick injury in 2010. She explains that she knows this is how she got hepatitis C because she never shared injecting equipment. She remembers feeling ‘upset’ at her diagnosis and took advice to have interferon-based treatment soon after. She was ‘embarrassed’ to be having treatment, and wouldn’t let her family members see her inject herself with the medication. For Rebecca, curing hepatitis C meant that she could live a ‘normal life’. While she doesn’t think about hepatitis C very often these days, she still gets blood tests twice a year.
Rebecca says that she felt ‘upset’ and ‘ashamed’ on finding out that she had hepatitis C. As the ‘black sheep of her family’, she was worried about what they would think. She recalls her family being understanding, though, and says that they knew her hepatitis C ‘wouldn’t put them in danger’.
Following advice from her GP, she started interferon-based treatment in the same year as her diagnosis. Overall, she says that her treatment experience was ‘okay’ and that she didn’t experience any significant side effects, except ‘never [getting] hungry much, so [she …] didn’t eat much’. Despite this, she explains, treatment wasn’t a simple experience. She recalls feeling ‘ashamed and embarrassed’ about it, so she never let her family see her inject herself with the medication.
Rebecca’s 12-month course of interferon-based treatment cured her of hepatitis C. As she recounts, one of her goals for treatment was to stop injecting drugs: ‘[I hoped that it would] stop me from using drugs, because I didn’t want to use drugs any more.’ For Rebecca, being cured of hepatitis C meant that she could ‘stop using drugs and have a normal life’.
It’s been over 10 years since Rebecca had hepatitis C. These days she doesn’t think about hepatitis C much, she says, but still makes sure to get tests for it every six months.
*Services Australia JobSeeker Payment.
Comparing her partner’s responses to those of her family, Rebecca (F, 34, experience with old [interferon-based] treatment) explains that unlike her parents, grandmother and brother, her partner [at the time] was not supportive of her decision to have treatment.
The funny thing is, I remember my grandmother, because my mum treated me like a child all the time, so I went with my nan, because she was worried about me, and my brother was there and so my brother came in, and then that was how it started from there […] Then my dad came with me to find out about the hep C, this treatment […] It was all positive [having them with me] […] My ex-partner had hep C and he didn’t cure it. He had the shits that I was going to try and get rid of it, for some reason […] I guess [he was worried that] I would be [cured of hep C] and he wouldn’t […] He said he would break up with me [if I did treatment] and I said, ‘Well, break up with me then […We] ended up breaking up for something completely different anyways.
Thinking back to when she had treatment, Rebecca (F, 34, experience with old [interferon-based] treatment) remembers her loss of appetite as its primary side effect.
My doctor gave me a referral to the hep C clinic at [a] hospital and the doctor prescribed, you know, told me [about] the program and put me on it. So once a week I was doing the interferon and having two tablets a day […] I did it for the whole 12 months […] I wasn’t really hungry [during the treatment]. I never got hungry much, so I didn’t eat much […] Other than that, everything was okay […] I was warned about it, but I was all right because I had my family around me […] I never let them see me inject the interferon [though…] because I felt ashamed and embarrassed, but other than that it was okay.
Not all those interviewed for this website had tried the new treatment. Some, like Rebecca (F, 34, experience with old [interferon-based] treatment), had mainly heard good reports about it from other people.
I heard there’s a new pill and you don’t have to do the […] injection any more. And I heard this pill does the job […] People like it […] A lot of people are happy with the new product.