5 Ways to Be Proactive Against Hep C Stigma

How to overcome the judgement, embarrassment, guilt, and other negative emotions that too often accompany hep C.

People diagnosed with hepatitis C face a number of challenges.

There’s the emotional experience of finding out you have a serious infection that can cause serious complications.

There is a seemingly overwhelming amount of information about the condition and the treatment options.

There are treatment decisions to be made, medications that need to be taken daily, and the other challenges of completing treatment that can cure the infection.

As if all of this wasn’t enough work, there’s also the stigma that too many people with hepatitis C face because of their diagnosis.

What is stigma?

Stigma is defined as negative and unfair beliefs directed at a group of people for a certain characteristic or circumstance—in this case, having hep C.

It’s that feeling of being judged, of people blaming you for your diagnosis, of people treating you differently because you have hep C. It frequently begins with misinformation or false beliefs about hep C and people who have hep C.

Stigma can be harmful to your mental health. It can make life more difficult during a time when you should be focused on getting better—and feeling proud of yourself for taking an important step in improving your health.

While you might feel like you can't change how the entire world views hep C, there are proactive steps and strategies you can take to cope with stigma—and maybe even change a few opinions about hep C in the process.

Check in with yourself

If you want others to have the right attitude about hep C, you should make sure you also have the right attitude. Feeling guilt, regret, or even shame about a diagnosis is normal, but these are also feelings you should try to minimize or eliminate.

Having a positive outlook about your condition will encourage others to do the same. Try to change your mind set by visualizing a healthy future. Journaling, mindfulness activities like meditation, and exercise can all be helpful in improving your mind set. Many people with hep C work with therapists, counselors, or other mental health practitioners.

Find the right person to talk to

One of the best ways to cope with stigma is to be selective in who you share your diagnosis with. When you want to talk about the diagnosis, choose people who are respectful, supportive, kind, and trustworthy.

Also choose a time and place where you feel comfortable talking. Remember that you have control over how information about your health is shared.

Join a support group

No one really knows what it’s like to live with hep C except other people who have hep C. Fortunately, there are ways to connect with others who are also living with hep C.

Ask your healthcare providers if they can recommend a local support group. Support groups provide a safe and judgement-free environment to discuss life with hep C. There are also many online resources that connect people with hep C.

Learn about hep C

The reality of hep C often differs from people’s preconceived notions and prejudices. It’s important that you spend time reinforcing your understanding of hep C.

Having confidence in your own knowledge can help reduce the impact of stigma and can also prepare you to pass on more accurate information to others.

Work with your healthcare providers

A chronic hep C infection will not go away on its own—it requires appropriate treatment. Follow your treatment plan and be open and honest with your healthcare providers about anything that is preventing you from following your treatment plan.

Medically reviewed in October 2021.

The Hepatitis C Trust. "Mental and emotional attitude."
NHS. "Hepatitis C."
UpToDate. "Patient education: Hepatitis C (Beyond the Basics)."
M. Elle Saine, Julia E. Szymczak, et al. "The impact of disease-related knowledge on perceptions of stigma among patients with Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection." PLOS ONE. October 5, 2021.
Katherine Ponte. "The Many Impacts of Self-Stigma." National Alliance on Mental Illness. February 8, 2021.
Hep. "Stigma and Hepatitis C."
University of Rochester Medical Center. "Journaling for Mental Health."
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. "Meditation: In Depth."
Ashish Sharma, Vishal Madaan and Frederick D. Petty. "Exercise for Mental Health." The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 2006. Vol 8, No. 2.
Susan Fishman. "Talking to Friends and Family About Your Hepatitis C." February 3, 2021.
American Liver Foundation. "Support for patients with Hepatitis C."
Hepatitis Education Project. "Support Group Information."

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