For the first time in 25 years Liam* is clear of hepatitis C. Liam has been given a new lease on life, however it is the positive impact on his psychological wellbeing that he talks about the most.
“When my blood tests showed I was cured of Hep C I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders. I was wearing a huge beaming smile. It was like I was floating on air and had to duck under doorways, I felt so free,” said Liam.
Liam was referred by the Royal Hobart Hospital to Anglicare’s Hepatitis Prevention Program, which is for people living with hepatitis or at risk of getting it. Staff who supported Liam through the ups and downs of his three month treatment witnessed his tangible relief when he was tested clear of the virus.
“The success of Liam’s treatment and the obvious benefits, emotionally as well as physically, are a great motivator for wanting to encourage other Tasmanians to access testing and the new treatment,” said Sharat Hooda from our Hepatitis Prevention Program.
Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that causes inflammation of the liver. In Australia it is most commonly spread through sharing unsterile needles, syringes and other injecting drug equipment.
Often, people with the virus may not show symptoms for many years. However, once someone is infected with the virus it does start affecting the liver cells and consequently their health.
Hepatitis C is divided into six distinct genotypes throughout the world, with multiple subtypes in each genotype class. Different medications or combinations of medications are prescribed depending upon the genotype.
“We are encouraging people at risk of having hepatitis C to be tested. These new lifesaving treatments are available on the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme, have minimal side effects, and best of all have a cure rate of about 95%,” said Sharat.
Since discovery of the virus over 25 years ago, there is now a real possibility of being able to eradicate hepatitis C in Australia over the next 5-10 years.
Having completed the three month course of medication (in tablet form), with very few side effects, Liam says he is willing to share his story “to encourage others to be tested and seek treatment. I hope that someone else’s life might change for the better too.”
Liam is busy getting on with his life. “I’m not nearly as tired as I used to be. I have far more energy and have been able to work when it’s available, as well as create sculptures with scrap metal in my free time,” he said, “But best of all is I no longer have a death sentence hanging over me, and that means I’ll be around for my children!”
*Name changed to protect identity