I recently had a baby with a wonderful man suffering from hepatitis C, but not too long ago I was one of those people on the outside looking in. There’s a lot of stigma surrounding hep C patients. Even I stigmatized people with hep C without ever realizing it. Depending on the situation, I think most of us probably stigmatize people who are different from us and who don’t fit in with the norm. When we don’t belong to a group and we don’t understand something it’s easy to make assumptions or agree with society’s view.
Even the new student intern who was helping the doctor in the maternity ward was making assumptions and stigmatizing my fiancée. She automatically assumed that I had hep C just because he had it. She didn’t understand why I’d want to have a baby with him if I didn’t. Why would I risk contracting the virus? Although Hepatitis C can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, one study found that the virus is only transmitted 1 out of every 190,000 instances of sexual contact. (healthline.com) She made him feel like he was less than human and acted very clearly like he was tainted.
I wasn’t very different from this student at one point in my life I made the same assumptions. I always saw myself as an open minded and accepting person so when I realized I was stigmatizing Hepatitis C patients I was surprised and more than a little embarrassed. Just like addiction, if we’ve never been touched by it personally it can be difficult to notice when we stigmatize addicts. Seeing it from this perspective has made me realize that when I get stigmatized for being a recovering addict people aren’t always being mean. They’re probably just ignorant and without knowing any better believe stereotypes or false information.
Sometimes we don’t know how wrong our assumptions are and how much they negatively impact others until we experience it for ourselves. I was an outsider looking in, but once I made the journey from ignorant to sympathetic I was able to practice that in other situations. Having been stigmatized as an addict I became more compassionate but this situation was different because I got to experience both sides. I went from unknowingly stigmatizing them to noticing the stigma someone I loved was going through. I didn’t get to experience both sides of the spectrum with addiction because I had parents who struggled with addiction it was always part of my life. Experiencing the shift between being the outsider stigmatizing people and then being the one stigmatized has open my eyes to my prejudice and has made me challenge my everyday assumptions more than ever.
Considering the society we live in my fiancé is very strong and brave for being so open about his illness. When we met it didn’t take long for him to share how he contracted the virus. Being a hemophiliac he got more blood transfusions than most and when the local Blood Drive failed to screen for hepatitis C, even though they had the technology to do so, thousands of people contracted the virus, including him. I know for a fact it’s not easy for him to talk about, nevertheless he chooses to be honest.
The struggles he faces are hard enough on their own without having to deal with the discrimination and stigma. People often assume that the hep c had to of been contracted from doing drugs and sharing needles which is often followed by the belief that the addict is to be blame in some way, therefore, less deserving of sympathy. It shouldn’t matter how it happened all that matters is that there just like everyone else. No one wants to have an illness, no one’s to blame. We should all be treated the same. I understand the contagious part being an issue but just educate yourself if you’re not sure of the risk.
For more posts like this check out my blog at A Recovering Addicts Experience