I was diagnosed with HCV 7 years ago when I started Opioid Agonist Treatment. I contracted Hepatitis C while using intravenous substances on the street in North End Halifax. I remember exactly where I was when I contracted it and exactly where I was when I was diagnosed. I was diagnosed after a nurse at the OAT Clinic suggested that I get tested. I was scared and uneducated on what I may have. I knew I was using unsafely, sharing syringes, cookers and other supplies. I was positive for Hepatitis C. I really didn’t know much about it and didn’t think I would live to see the age of 30 so I pretended I wasn’t worried about the diagnoses but deep down I was scared. I didn’t know how it was transmitted besides through substance use, but even then, I thought it was only through sharing syringes.
After about 2 years of continuing to use Fentanyl & Cocaine every day, I knew I had to change or I was going to die. I went to detox, started to get a healthy lifestyle back. I ended up getting about a year substance free under my belt, except for my Methadone. I was working full time making fairly good wages. After talking to the Health Care Practitioner at my work, I decided I wanted to seek treatment out. I was referred to the Hepatology Clinic and things were looking positive. It was just after the Interferon Era and this new expensive treatment was on the market. At the time my liver wasn’t damaged enough so our healthcare system wouldn’t cover it but luckily for me my work plan was going too. All I needed was a family doctor to complete follow up and look over my blood work. No big deal, right? Think again. Where I’m from in Atlantic Canada there is so much Stigma around former or current substance users. I called between 40-50 General Physicians to take me on as a patient. The nicest answer I got was call me back after your off of Methadone. A lot of physicians wouldn’t take my phone call, some thought I was seeking substances and some even hung up on me. This lead me in a downward spiral eventually losing my job, overdosing multiple times and ended up in jail.
In 2018 after I got out of jail, I started on a pathway to recovery. After about 6 months of living healthy I sought out treatment again and the results were completely different. I had an amazing Nurse who guided me every step of the way & a wonderful Infectious Diseases Specialist who treated me like a human being. I got cured in early 2019 and have never felt better. I’ve learned a lot about Hepatitis C and don’t want to re-infect myself.
I ended up getting involved in Volunteer Work, Advocacy Work & got hired in the Harm Reduction field as an Outreach Worker. I currently am a member of the Halifax Area Network of Drug Using People, Peers Assisting & Lending Support. I’m an Outreach Worker at Mainline Needle Exchange and even work as an Outreach Worker at the Hepatitis Outreach Society of Nova Scotia.
That is my story in a nutshell. I recommend to everyone that they get tested sooner than later. It’s very easy just a little finger poke. The Treatment is not what it once was. I had zero side effects. I can now proudly say that I have lived with Hepatitis C and I have received the cure. Treatment is Prevention!
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