Must I Disclose?
WHOM SHOULD I TELL? HOW DO I TELL?
The following is from the hepc.bull Feb. 2015
If you have hepatitis C, you are under no legal obligation to tell others. However, the law may change. Right now, it is up to you to decide whether to tell anyone of your hepatitis C status. Some people (and unfortunately some health care providers, also) may have judgmental attitudes or unnecessarily exaggerated fears of infection. People should carefully consider whom they inform, in the light of possible discrimination. How people might have caught the virus is not important. Those who have the hepatitis C virus should be covered by anti-discrimination laws. If in doubt, get legal advice.
Cases where patients have been infected by physicians have raised the ethical issue of whether or not infected physicians should be banned from performing invasive procedures. Some hospitals are now insisting that their surgeons be tested and that those infected get immediate treatment.
Surgeons infected with HCV in Germany are allowed to perform surgery with approval of a committee of experts which takes into account the individual’s situation, such as his or her viral load. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15205780)
DISCLOSURE: “Under public health law in some provinces and territories, people have a legal obligation to not pass on infections like HCV—in other words, to protect sex partners from becoming infected through sex. That is why Public Health (or physicians and nurses working in cooperation with Public Health) often counsel people living with hepatitis C to disclose their HCV infection to sex partners and to practice safer sex, including using condoms for intercourse.”
HOW DO I TELL?
If you’ve decided to tell your employer and/or co-workers, a good way may be to print pamphlets to give them which speak of how the disease is and isn’t transmitted. It can come in handy for them to know, in case you’re involved in some sort of accident at work, for example.
What about a potential or present sexual partner? With a spouse or former partner, you may have the excuse that you didn’t know, so there is no fault in not telling earlier. If you are searching for a partner, don’t worry; just because you’ve been diagnosed with Hep C doesn’t mean you can’t have a partner. But how do you tell? It can be scary, so practice first. How much will you say? When will you say it? Practicing can help you get over feeling nervous. Write out a speech. Record yourself. Try your speech with a trustworthy friend or therapist. Ask how he or she would react. Is there anything that makes him or her feel uncomfortable? What could work better?
It might be best not to tell on a first date. Let your prospective partner get to know YOU. If you’re asked a personal, direct question, deal with it as such, and say you’re not ready to discuss certain topics until you get to know him or her better. Some people suggest telling by the fourth date, so neither of you has invested too much time. Be prepared to be turned down. You may not always be successful. Tell before you get involved enough to be hurt; if you wait until the other person is emotionally involved, then he or she might feel you were dishonest.
Definitely plan on telling before sleeping with the person, and DON’T leave it until you’re in bed or in the hotel room…or in the back seat. If the topic of sex comes up, that might be a perfect time to discuss the matter of both of you getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases. (No, Hep C is not an STD, but there is still the possibility of contracting it through unprotected sex if blood is involved). Or, if you can work it into the conversation somehow, such as talking about your volunteer work, or the movie “Deal With It,” it’s better than having a talk just about Hep C. Consider having a pamphlet handy. Give your friend the important facts, but don’t overdo it. You will earn “brownie points” by suggesting he or she speak with a doctor. You can truthfully tell the other person that there is less than a 3 percent chance of transmitting Hep C, even during unprotected sex.
If you are met with uncertainty, it might be a good thing to say that you understand that he or she needs time to think, and invite your new friend to call you in a day or two. If you haven’t heard back after about 3 days, consider calling to say you’re still thinking of him/her, but frankly, if the person won’t accept you with Hep C, the person is probably not worth your time. Hep C can be a blessing in disguise. A caring person who is interested in you will go to the trouble of investigating the disease, and will be intelligent enough to see it really doesn’t matter. It’s an excellent way to weed out the duds! But if you really don’t want this great opportunity to find a quality mate….get treated. Get cured! (From the hepc.bull Feb. 2015)
- Peppermint Patti’s FAQs in English (v. 10.1, 2015) Section I.5.0: Whom Should I Tell? How do I tell?
- Disclosing Your Disability | A Legal Guide for People with Disabilities in BC