The Voices of Hepatitis C: Patients Discuss Their Fight Against HCV for World Hepatitis Day

Those who battled hepatitis C recount their journey to spread awareness on World Hepatitis Day.

An estimated 3.2 million individuals are living with hepatitis C virus (HCV) in the United States, many of whom are unaware of their status. HCV can lead to liver damage, cirrhosis, and eventually, liver cancer.

Baby boomers—–born between 1945 and 1965––are 5 times more likely to have HCV than other adults. Although the high rates of HCV infection among this subpopulation are not completely understood, most are believed to have become infected between the 1960s and 1980s when transmission was highest, according to the CDC.

Before 1992, widespread screening for HCV was not required. Many individuals who underwent surgical procedures or who received contaminated blood prior to the adoption of more stringent screening methods may have been infected.

Today marks World Hepatitis Day, which aims to increase global awareness of hepatitis and encourage prevention, testing, and treatment. The goal is to band together to eradicate the virus and promote change, according to the World Hepatitis Alliance.

As awareness continues to gain momentum, new initiatives are being put into place by world leaders. At the World Health Assembly in 2016, 194 countries pledged to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030. In response to this commitment, a global movement called NOhep was launched by the community to unite individuals working in the hepatitis field with others from across the globe to work towards eradicating viral hepatitis by 2030.

This year’s theme for World Hepatitis Day is “Eliminate Hepatitis”: a simple call to action. In conjunction with the theme is the #ShowYourFace campaign, a personalized Polaroid photo campaign using individual human faces to highlight how hepatitis is relevant to everyone and that helping to eliminate the virus is something everyone can support.

As the world continues to fight for the eradication of hepatitis, read these personalized stories from patients as they recount their toughest battle against the disease.

1. A Patient’s Long, Difficult Journey to a Cure for Hepatitis C

With the birth of a brand new baby and a promising career in the balance, Jack Keegan found himself at a crossroads.

His constant lethargy mixed with aches and pains that spread throughout his body told him that something was seriously wrong. Suddenly, his vision of providing for his family and climbing the career ladder was in jeopardy after his doctor gave him a sobering ultimatum.

“He said, ‘Jack, if you don’t quit drinking you’re going to die,’” Keegan said.

Click here to read more of Keegan’s story.

2. Hepatitis C Drug Gives Patient His Life Back

All it took was a random stick of a needle to change a man’s life.

When Steve Hobson was applying for life insurance, he had no idea a seemingly minor accident in his past would lead to a positive test for genotype 1 hepatitis C virus.

Read more about Hobson’s story here.

3. Gold Medal Paralympic Athlete Overcomes Toughest Challenge in Hepatitis C

“I’ll tell you this, anything is possible for you in your life. I’m a witness to that,” Wayne Washington said of his long journey overcoming hepatitis C virus infection. “I’ve been through a lot of pain. I know pain, but I’m grateful for the pain because the pain helped me to be a better person.”

Click here to learn more about Washington’s journey.

4. Overcoming the Hepatitis C Stigma on the Road to a Cure

Gail Green, a 63-year-old Oregon native, had just become a fairly new Christian in 1998 when her church was holding a Red Cross blood drive. After donating, she was contacted by the Red Cross and urged to see a physician immediately, because her blood showed signs of HCV and HBV.

After seeking out a specialist, Green received the devastating news that she had hepatitis C genotype 1a, one of the most untreatable forms of HCV.

“Not only was it hepatitis, but on top of that he uses the word fatal,” Green said. “Fatal is an emotional word for me. To say that you have this thing that’s going to be fatal and you have the worst one, boy that will take you to your knees.”

Click here to read more of Green’s story.

5. Armed Forces Veteran Successfully Battles Hepatitis C Virus

Vietnam War veterans are more likely to contract hepatitis C virus than any other veterans, and 65-year-old Joe Benko was no exception to the statistic.

The Allentown, PA native, who served in the US Armed Forces from 1969 to 1971, was first diagnosed in the early 1990s while donating blood. After Benko received a letter stating he had contracted HCV, he went to his family physician to have his diagnosis confirmed.

“I was shocked and devastated,” Benko said. “I couldn’t believe the news because I didn’t feel, nor did I have, symptoms that a virus was inside of me, other than fatigue.”

Click here to learn more about Benko’s journey.