My name is Colleen Price. I am 45, a survivor of trauma, addictions, hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV who resides in Ottawa, Canada. I was diagnosed in 1997 for hepatitis C – genotype 1 and later in 2000, for HIV.
At the time of HCV diagnosis in 1997, it didn’t overly impact me. I saw HCV as a chronic, manageable disease that would probably take many years before it became problematic. My GP didn’t encourage treatment as treatment was very difficult at that time and my liver was not problematic.
I lived in silence and denial and then I was diagnosed with HIV in 2000. The combined diseases at first and for a long time after, I associated with a death sentence. With the combined diagnosis, I reverted into a helpless and hopeless mode, relapsing to cocaine and increased drinking, culminating in a DUI. For me, a final wake-up call, I then entered a drug treatment centre.
I thank my illnesses because my paths to my own destruction were ingrained and my denial and negativity were absolute. Mental re-framing, harm-reduction and support have assisted me to break the chains of addiction and self-destructiveness. I am in recovery and always will be.
It was not until 2004 that a specialist got through to me the seriousness of combined HCV and HIV. The specialist said I need not worry about HIV, that if I did nothing that I would likely die from HCV far before my HIV. As well there were concerns about future HIV drugs on my liver.
Treatment was an emotional, physical and spiritual roller-coaster but in the end, I persevered and completed treatment. The journey changed me from victim to survivor via strong emotional releases while on HCV treatment.
I am not ashamed of HCV or HIV or my past. I am who I choose to be now. The hardest part emotionally was disclosing to my partner, my parents, friends and employer.
I have run into many barriers individually, clinically and systemically. I have experienced dual stigma, losses, discrimination and oppression. Being dually diagnosed was double-trouble mentally, physically and spiritually, yet I have evolved.
It is a continual period of both challenges and growth for me. I no longer feel shame, guilt or fear. I have found a way out of depression and despair. I have found acceptance, empowerment and hope. I am still very much a work in progress, as I re-define my identity, my values, my goals, my dreams and as I face chronic illnesses.
I have been working as an advocate for both HCV mono and co-infection access to care, treatment and support services including mental health, addictions and peer support. I encourage testing and treatment if possible. Treatment is not for everyone, but if supports are in place, if there isn’t any clinical contraindications, many people including marginalized can treat successfully. Treatment can and does work. It is difficult, but there is hope that clinical benefits may work. I was fortunate, SVR for 6 years now.
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