I fail to understand a world which victimizes a victim. I have several client right now, in recovery, who are positive for the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). I’m watching them die by inches, and they can’t seem to get medical care. No insurance, no money, and lots of judgement. They vary in age from 24 to 52, all have been IV drug users, and all have been clean for 2 years to 30 years. The only thing that they have in common is HCV and a lack of medical care.
It’s estimated that 1 in ten Americans are infected with HCV. That’s four million people. Of IV drug users, estimates of hepatitis antibodies run 53-93%. Methadone maintenance programs, like where I work, have a high incidence of hepatitis antibodies of 67-96%. The literature supports treatment for patients in methadone maintenance, but most never receive treatment. So I watch my client grow sick, seek treatment, and not receive it.
For an in depth look at HCV and treatment, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYMTmCoGtoo
According to Hepatitis Central, "More people are currently living with HCV than any other chronic blood-borne infectious disease." They go on to say that the stigma becomes more harmful than the illness. Certainly seems to be happening to my clients within the medical community. Indeed, social identity theory categorizes people based upon whether they are a member of the in group or the out group. Self-esteem is related to the position to out group. Furthermore, the in group will protect itself, rejecting those who do not fit their group. So healthcare providers may associate those with hepatitis as stereotype (IV drug user, for example). Consequently, healthcare providers may discriminate against hepatitis patients. Patients pick up on the disapproval of their perceived lifestyle and social group membership. I watch them go from doctor to doctor, and be turned away time after time. My heart is breaking for them.