The first thing is to give yourself time to let the news sink in. This can take a few days or weeks, or much longer.
Accepting a new diagnosis is important before you can make rational decisions about what to do next. This will usually involve getting more information.
You can get information from your doctor, from friends and support groups and from other sources including the Internet.
As with HIV, learning about HCV can affect:
- Your health. This will involve getting information about monitoring, treatment and things you can change in your day-to-day life.
- The health of sexual and drug using partners. This will include information about how to minimise the risk of transmitting HIV or HCV.
After 6 years of being HIV positive I mistakenly believed I’d already been hit by the bus and survived so nothing else could hurt me.
Who should I tell?
When you find out that you have HCV, only you and your health workers will know. Your doctor can only inform other health workers who are directly involved in your care.
You can take as much time as you need before deciding who else you want to tell.
It helps to be able to talk to a friend, partner or relative that you trust, so that you don’t deal with this on your own. But who you tell is up to you.
In the UK, your HIV clinic should discuss the advantages of telling your GP.
I only discovered my HCV status by accident after I volunteered for a trial at my hospital which was looking at whether interferon might be useful for people who had run out of ARV options for their HIV. I can’t say that it came as a surprise (I assumed I was because of my previous drug use) but never really thought about it as I assumed I would be dead by the time HCV kicked in.
Newly diagnosed with HCV
If you have been HIV positive for a while and were recently diagnosed with HCV, the shock of a second serious infection can be difficult.
Some of the strengths you brought to your HIV diagnosis will help you now.
It is important to have a doctor who knows about and takes responsibility for both HIV and HCV.
For me it was very important to have the HIV and HCV treated together – they are related…their progression is related…a liver specialist is not fully prepared to deal with somebody that lives with the double stigma of having these diseases…and didn’t really understand some of the social and psychological implications.
Newly diagnosed with both HIV & HCV
If you have been diagnosed with both HIV and HCV at the same time, this can feel like a double blow.
If you are more worried about HIV than HCV, you may find HIV support groups and organisations more useful. Because HIV has been around for longer there are probably more community organisations that can help.
i-Base is just one of many groups that provides information about HIV treatment in non-technical language.
Treatment for both HIV and HCV is very effective and will continue to improve.
1 November 2013