Module 8: Lifestyle and living with HCV - section 3

In this document:

Living with HCV

Activity: Small group work
Section Time: Approximately 30 minutes

This activity allows people to consider a range of important non-medical impacts that can arise for people living with HCV.

Show Slide 8.7 (Group work) and ask participants, in small groups to answer the question:

To facilitate:

  • Allow about 15 minutes for group work and 15 minutes for discussion.
  • Towards the end of the discussion show Slide 8.8 (Living with HCV) and discuss any points that may not have been covered:
Supporting content:

For injecting and other continuing drug users with HCV, it will sometimes be necessary to change aspects of the way drugs are used and exert heightened care in order to avoid putting others at risk. This can be problematic if, for example, the person has reason to be reluctant to disclose his/her HCV status to other people.

Sexual relationships can be affected in a similar way. The relevance of HCV infection to transmission risks varies considerably according to the rate of partner change, the couple’s sexual practises and the likelihood of blood to blood contact. (See van de Laar et al 2009; Vandelli et al 2004).

Anxiety about sexual transmission along with the direct effects of HCV can, in turn, affect someone’s libido/sex drive and their sense of self.

If a partner or other family member has to assume a temporary or long-term support or carer role, this can impose a considerable strain on relationships.

Protecting other family members may also require changes in order to avoid sharing items such as razors and toothbrushes.

Treatment usually requires extensive dealings with healthcare systems. Understanding the implications of HCV infection and the possible treatment options is complex enough but, regrettably, this is sometimes made harder by poorly informed healthcare staff, unsympathetic/stigmatising treatment of PWID, eligibility criteria that wrongly exclude PWID from HCV treatment from which they can benefit and, restricted availability of treatment in general.

In some occupations (e.g. some healthcare professions) there is an obligation to disclose HCV status where blood safety may be compromised. A need for disclosure can also arise due to the impact of symptoms like fatigue or the side effects of treatment on availability for work. The reaction of employers and co-workers can be highly variable. Although it is sometimes supportive, it can also be discriminatory.

If symptoms affect factors such as ability to work or the need for care, it may affect entitlement to various welfare benefits. These are sometimes an important source of help, but can again mean negotiating complex systems.

As with HIV, HCV can affect a person’s eligibility and the cost of financial products such as life insurance, mortgages and loans.

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