DOPERS Surrey and Langley on Hep C

May 18, 2018
In response to an invitation to contribute to a blog post for Pacific Hepatitis C Network, 3 members of Diverse Organization Providing Education and Regional Services (DOPERS) in Surrey and Langley were interviewed regarding experiences within the health care system.

Grace and Cherie of Surrey with Doug in Langley graciously allowed us to interview them and relay their experiences to a wider audience.

Grace, STÓ:LŌ First Nations from Chilliwack who was diagnosed 30 years ago, is unable to receive treatment due to complications with HIV. She is under housed, and despite generally positive experiences with health care providers, she knows that her housing situation and lack of consistent meals does have an impact on her ability to receive care and achieve the health outcomes that she prefers.

“I was diagnosed with HIV 30 years ago. I lived in Grace Mansion in Vancouver Downtown Eastside where an Ex Boyfriend of mine came to me and told me he was Hep C. And he had given it to me. At the time, I didn’t expect…I wasn’t expecting it. I wasn’t expecting to be told this and it was really hard on me.  I didn’t really do anything because the file he gave me was so thick…that I’m would take me forever to find out and get diagnosed..I didn’t want to die…so I honestly didn’t do anything about it. I’m not receiving any treatment. I’m not able to get treatment because of my HIV  because my count is so low…they have to wait until I get healthier which sucks…it sucks. And its getting worse. Unfortunately because my body is failing. They won’t do no treatment for me which puts me in even a worse predicament. Its really hard to not have any kind of treatment right now. Because of my health, it makes me get sicker and sicker and sicker.”

Cherie of Surrey, who found out she had Hep-C 15 years ago, has a lot of questions about what services are available for her. She is in a relationship with an non-infected person, and knows how hard it is on a relationship when one person receives a Hep-C diagnosis. In fact, this is how she originally contracted the disease. Although she has stable housing for the past 4 months, she still finds it very difficult to stabilize her life and find the time to get the treatment she needs.

“I had a feeling in my gut. I had a feeling in my gut that I had it. Because my partner at the time, told me he had Hep C. I used needles back then. I was someone who was very very careful when I used needles. I only used needles one time. I tried to dispose of them properly where my partner he wasn’t so careful. I was actually in a recovery house. And I hadn’t got my methadone for a long period of time…finally the director..on day 7 of no methadone…I was having seizures. It was really hard. So the director with trying to get my methadone back on track. She allowed me to go get a point of heroin but I didn’t have any new rigs. Then I thought the ones I had in my bag were only mine. I didn’t know that my partner had put some of his in there. And it was the one and only time where I used a rig more than once. But I didn’t know his were in there. And I went to the doctor right away. I told him what had happened. So they tested me and I came back positive.I’m not currently on the treatment. I’ve started the process with the liver specialist. I have to go for an echo of your liver. They do it with sound. They map out your liver. It is supposed to show how much damage in the liver…what stage you are at”

Doug of Langley is Hep-C positive for 23 years, is no longer able to work. A single father with heart problems, he has sought Hep-C treatment and does not know why he is ineligible. He regrets some behavior in his youth that led to his infection and has a strong plea to others to be careful and be mindful of the risks that can have such serious consequences.

“I was reckless when I was younger. Until I figure out I want to do something about it. It just surprised me that some people that are still using on the streets doing crime are getting the Hep C medication and here I’m trying to be a dad…my mom is hearing impaired. I’m interpreting for half my family. And I’m clean. I haven’t been in jail for like nine years and they turn me down. Just don’t get it. I don’t have anything against people because their situation in getting the medication but if medication are being handed out, then why are people like Fathers, people who are getting their lives together being disapproved while other people who are wrecking their lives and choose to do so are getting the medication. I don’t get it. People are ODing. I know of a couple of people…I’m not at liberty to say names but it’s just really frustrating…for the first time I go to get treatment…I get shot down. I looked it up online. For the amount of cost by not giving people their Hep C medication…the after effects when you get Liver Cirrohis costs the health care system way more in Liver transplants…it just seems to be something that by putting it off another time. A lot of people who should be getting their Hep C medication don’t have to go to right to the point of liver failure before they are accepted for medication. Which apparently is the case today. That’s got to be cleared up if possible.”

The full transcript of each video interview can be found below:
(Please click on link)

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