When Devin was first diagnosed with Hepatitis C, she was in a state of shock. “It was one of those things that no one had really educated me about, [because] nobody ever talked about it,” she says. While taking prescription painkillers after ankle surgery, she became dependent on opioids — and when the “quick downward spiral” of drug addiction led her to try other substances, she contracted Hep C after sharing a needle with someone who was (unwittingly) infected. “I honestly felt ashamed,” she admits.
For patients like Devin, the stigma surrounding Hep C — which attacks the liver, and is spread by contact with contaminated blood, most often through shared needles or other equipment used to inject drugs — can feel overwhelming. But after being cured of Hep C, abstaining from drugs, and opening a harm reduction collective in North Carolina to help others at risk, she’s the first to say that the conversation around Hep C needs to change.
What those who haven’t been personally affected by it often don’t realize is that Hep C is not only treatable, but curable with once-daily pills. That said, even though medical science surrounding Hep C has come a long way, the infection is still highly transmittable and often symptom-free — which is to say, it’s far more prevalent than most people think. In fact, in the years between 2012 and 2019, Hep C cases in the U.S. more than doubled due to injection-based drug use.
Fortunately, with the help of community outreach programs like Devin’s, increased awareness about the realities of Hep C, and, of course, with the ability to cure it, there’s still hope that the virus can be slowed before it continues to spread at this pace to future generations. Watch the video below to learn more about reducing the stigma associated with Hep C and its connection to the opioid crisis, as told by three individuals who have experienced it firsthand.