Hepatitis C: An In-Depth Guide

Support & disclosure

For people with hepatitis C, disclosure to family, friends, employers and healthcare providers is a personal choice. A person may choose not to tell anyone or they may be selective about who they tell at first. In most situations, people do not have to disclose if they don’t want to. For example, people do not need to tell their landlord, parole officer or shelter staff worker about their status. For more information on disclosure and hepatitis C, check out the FAQ When is a person legally required to tell other people about his or her hepatitis C infection?

Benefits of Disclosure

Getting Support

People living with Hep C often need help to deal with the stigma, with health complications they may be experiencing and decisions about how to manage the infection. Disclosing can help people with Hep C find support. By disclosing, people with Hep C can find the support they need. Accessing safe and trusted support, from a counsellor or support group, can be the first step before disclosing to friends and family.

Receiving better healthcare

When doctors or other healthcare providers know that a patient has Hep C, they are in a better place to care for the person.  People with Hep C can then make decisions with their doctor about medicine and treatment that will help prevent further damage to the liver.

Healthcare providers are required to maintain confidentiality, so a person’s Hep C status and other health information should be kept private.

Keeping people safe

People may want to tell their family, sex partners or people they use drugs with. Giving these people the heads up and providing information on how to stay safe will keep them healthy and help prevent the spread of the virus. Doctors, dentists and other healthcare providers will also appreciate the information so they can pay extra attention to standard designed to prevent the transmission of infections.

Cautions with Disclosure

Sometimes people will discriminate

Disclosing one’s Hep C status can put a person in a vulnerable position. Upon hearing the news, some people will react with shock, fear or judgement, especially if they do not understand the disease. Providing information on Hep C may help in these cases. Also, opening up only to people who are trusted and close will make disclosure easier. Having Hep C often changes people's lives. They may lose some friends, but they may also gain new ones.

Suggestions for disclosure discussions

Once a person has decided to disclose their status, they should choose a time that feels right to them. Disclosure can be nerve-wracking and may take some energy and determination to get through. This is not a confession—it's just acknowledging the situation at hand. The person hearing the news may need time to react or may want information on Hep C to help them understand it.

People living with Hep C often need help to deal with the stigma, health complications and decisions about how to manage the infection.

Some people plan what they’re going to say beforehand. This may help them feel more in control of the situation.  When deciding how to handle the moment of disclosure, a person may want to consider things, such as:

  • Where will the conversation take place—in private or in public?
  • Will it be in person, over the phone or in writing?
  • How will it be worded? Here are some suggestions:
    • “I have something I'd like to tell you…”
    • “I feel that our relationship is strong. I feel I can tell you that …”
    • “Remember how I went to the doctor's office/clinic a few weeks ago?”
  • Can the other person who has just received the information talk to people who also know? Do they need to keep it secret?
  • It may also help to reassure the person being told that he or she is not expected to have any answers.

Some people may want to learn more about hepatitis C after the discussion. CATIE has Hep C brochures that can be ordered for free or they could visit this website (www.catie.ca) for Hep C information.

Disclosing to children

Children are often able to sense something is wrong, even if they aren’t sure exactly what it is. If you try to hide your symptoms from your children, they may think things are worse than they are. Try to talk to your children in an age-appropriate way. Here are a few tips that might make disclosing to children easier:

  • Practice your explanation beforehand so that you feel ready and can focus on your child’s response.
  • Try to be as relaxed and calm as possible.
  • Assure your children that it is nothing they did that caused your infection. Be sure to also say that your illness has nothing to do with how much you love them.
  • Be as honest as you can. Telling your children you’ll be better will only make them upset if it turns out not to be true. On the other hand, being pessimistic can scare them.
  • Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” if you don’t.
  • Tell your children that it’s okay to have lots of different feelings and that you do, too.

Revised 2013.