Leave Judgement at the Door

(A report back from lived experience speakers)

The rapid developments in Hepatitis C management since direct acting antiviral therapy became available on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme in March 2016 has been nothing short of amazing. Now with the advent of pan genotypic regimes and comparative treatment success regardless of the presence of cirrhosis, Australia is a privileged and unique position to ensure no one is left behind in its pursuit of Hepatitis C eradication by 2030. Despite this, achieving this target remains ambitious given the stigma associated with a Hepatitis C diagnosis.

The inclusion of lived experience speakers at the conference was both inspired and humbling, and a timely reminder of how much work there is to go. Both speakers emphasised their own struggles and the many barriers to their ultimate goal of achieving Hepatitis C cure. Given my role as a General Practitioner working in an Aboriginal Medical Service, I empathised with them as many of my own patients are faced with similar hurdles.  

 It came as no surprise to me that both speakers reiterated the importance of a wellbeing model rather than a disease model. It was a timely reminder that we have a responsibility to make our patients feel valued. Negative actions and words have the potential to enhance alienation that is often an intrinsic characteristic given that many patients have carried their Hepatitis C diagnosis for years. Others assume there is no cure and they will be forever judged for having the Hepatitis C label attached to their medical file. As clinicians, we should be reminded how patients have contracted Hepatitis C is ultimately not a critical factor in initiating treatment but plays a role in ongoing monitoring and follow up. 

 If we are to truly help achieve Hepatitis C eradication by 2030, General Practitioners will play a key role in both disease diagnosis and management. A holistic approach to management, the cornerstone of general practice, is imperative.  




Author bio: 
Hugh Le Lievre has lived and worked in Orange since commencing Internship in 2013, and obtained his FRACGP and FARGP in early 2018. He has a special interest in Emergency Medicine, Adolescent Mental Health and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health with a specific focus on chronic disease management.