Who is Ricky?
Ricky lives with his aunty and her children in Sydney, Australia. He describes his ethnic background as ‘Aboriginal’: like both of his parents, Ricky was born in Australia. His primary source of income is a social security benefit for people living with a disability.* Ricky has hepatitis C currently, and is focussed on healthy eating, including ‘eat[ing] vegetables, plenty of red meat and drink[ing] plenty of water’, but he says he ‘would like to go on treatment’ in the future.
Ricky was diagnosed with hepatitis C a month before his interview in 2020. He remembers that he ‘freaked out’ when he first heard the news, but he spoke to a friend who helped calm him down. While he intends on getting treatment in the future, he is currently focussed on healthy eating and learning more about hepatitis C.
Reflecting on the diagnosis, he says that ‘hearing the words hepatitis C’ made him feel ‘ashamed’ and ‘very self-conscious’, and gave him ‘bad anxiety’. He worried about what others would think of his diagnosis and if ‘they’re going to judge’ him for it. For Ricky, these concerns were due to the association between hepatitis C and injecting drugs, and he explains that he’d ‘been injecting for a while’.
A friend advised him to ‘just relax’ about his diagnosis and said that it would be a ‘good idea’ to speak to his family about it. Ricky lives with his aunty and her children. He says he wasn’t sure how to approach the issue as his family ‘might flip out’, and was unsure about raising his diagnosis at all because while ‘you’ve got to be honest with people’, if you ‘tell them that you are hep C positive […it might] scare them away, because they don’t want to get the virus’.
Thinking about this issue, he recalls responding to news of friends or acquaintances having hepatitis C in a similar way: ‘When they used to tell me they were hep C positive, I would freak out. I guess it scared me, [so] I know what it’s like.’
He also describes feeling ‘worried’ about his hepatitis C because he shared a bathroom with his family: ‘When I go to the showers, I take my toiletry bag with me and I make sure that my toothbrush [is] in there and, if I’m using razors, [I make sure to] put all my razors back in there. I have another bag for all my dirty blades, because I use [them in the bathroom] with the nephews. So I [also…] make sure they are in the bin so no-one cuts themselves.’
At the moment, Ricky is focussed on diet and healthy eating, including ‘eat[ing] vegetables, plenty of red meat and drink[ing] plenty of water’, but he says he ‘would like to go on treatment’ as soon as he has learnt more about his diagnosis and hepatitis C more generally.
*Services Australia Disability Support Pension.
Thinking about his own responses to hepatitis C in the past, Ricky (M, 35, no treatment experience) says that he is worried that having the virus might scare other people away from him.
[Speaking to other people about hep C] frightens me, because you’ve got to be honest with people [but] If you tell them that you are hep C positive [I worry that] it’s going to scare them away, I guess, because they don’t want to get the virus themselves. I remember before I started [injecting drugs] and when [people] used to tell me they were hep C positive, I would freak out, I guess. It scared me, [so] I know what it’s like […] Just freaked me out, hearing the words ‘hepatitis C’ … gave me really bad anxiety.
As he explains, Ricky (M, 35, no treatment experience) spoke to a friend almost immediately after receiving his diagnosis. His friend suggested that he also speak with his aunt, whom he lives with, but he was worried that she wouldn’t respond well.
I told my mate [about the diagnosis] and he said, ‘Just relax, but maybe it’s a good idea to tell your aunty.’ […But] I’m just worried she might flip out […] She’s been positive with me, like, you know, I’ve […] gone [off track] a few times, but I’m back on track. She’s picked me up so many times […] I’m a bit worried about my aunty, and when I go to the showers and that, I take my toiletry bag with me and I make sure that my toothbrush is in there, and if I’m using razors, put all my razors back in there or I have another bag for all my dirty blades, because I use them [in the same bathroom that my] nephews [use]. So I just […] put it in the bag [or] make sure they are in the bin so no-one cuts themselves.
While he hasn’t had treatment himself, Ricky (M, 35, no treatment experience) emphasises the importance of positivity when thinking about hepatitis C treatment.
Stay strong, I guess, and stay positive, and don’t let things get to you […] Stay focussed and listen to the doctor or to the nurse or whoever […] and listen to all the instructions, and don’t read into [your diagnosis] too much, or don’t overthink it, and don’t think negative. Be positive about it, I guess.