On June 28, 1970, the first Pride march took place in New York City, marking the first anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. Since then, Pride Month has evolved into an annual celebration of queer identities and a time to highlight ongoing challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community. 

A critical discussion that should be had during Pride Month revolves around health issues affecting our community. Addressing these topics is crucial for promoting understanding, reducing stigma, and improving health outcomes. By raising awareness, we can help ensure everyone receives the medical care they need and deserve. 

Among the health concerns impacting the LGBTQ+ community, hepatitis C (hep C) stands out. This viral infection, which primarily affects the liver, disproportionately impacts LGBTQ+ individuals. At HepCMyWay, we are dedicated to providing resources and support for those affected by hep C. Here, we explore what hepatitis C is, why the LGBTQ+ community is at higher risk, and how the disease can be prevented and treated. 

Understanding Hepatitis C 

Hepatitis C, or hep C, is a contagious liver disease that can cause severe complications such as liver damage, liver cancer, and even liver failure if left untreated. Hep C is primarily transmitted through infected blood. Before 1992, many people contracted the virus through blood transfusions. Today, hep C is mainly spread by: Sharing needles or syringes for drug use Having unprotected sex with an infected individual Being born to a mother with the virus Chronic hepatitis C often presents no symptoms until its later stages, making detection difficult. Therefore, regular testing is crucial for those at risk. 

Hep C Prevalence in the LGBTQ+ Community 

Hep C is more prevalent among LGBTQ+ individuals compared to the general population. This increased risk is not inherent to being LGBTQ+, but rather due to specific factors more common within the community, including: 

Limited Access to Healthcare

Despite protections like the Affordable Care Act, many LGBTQ+ individuals face discrimination in healthcare settings, leading to difficulties in accessing necessary care, including testing and treatment for hepatitis C. 

Higher Rates of Mental Health Struggles

LGBTQ+ individuals experience higher rates of mental health issues due to discrimination and stigma. This can lead to substance abuse and high-risk sexual activity, both of which increase the risk of contracting hep C. 

Higher Rates of Intravenous Drug Use

LGBTQ+ people use drugs at higher rates than heterosexual individuals. Sharing needles for intravenous drug use significantly raises the risk of contracting hep C. Limited access to healthcare further complicates efforts to obtain clean needles and support. 

Higher Rates of High-Risk Sexual Activity

LGBTQ+ individuals engage in higher rates of high-risk sexual activity, another transmission route for hep C. Gay and bisexual men, or anyone participating in unprotected anal sex, are at increased risk due to potential blood-to-blood contact. 

Unsafe Tattooing and Body Piercing

Tattoos and piercings are popular among LGBTQ+ individuals. However, getting body modifications in unsafe environments with non-sterile equipment increases the risk of contracting hep C. These factors highlight the need for awareness and regular testing within the LGBTQ+ community to address the disproportionate number of hep C infections. 

Prevention Strategies for Hepatitis C 

If you're at risk of contracting hep C or seeking ways to protect yourself, consider these strategies: 

  • Get Vaccinated
    • Vaccinate against hepatitis A and B. While there is no vaccine for C, these vaccinations can reduce your overall risk. 
  • Practice Safe Sex
    • Use condoms and clean sex toys before and after use. Regularly get tested for hep C and other sexually transmitted infections, especially after new sexual encounters. 
  • Avoid Dirty Needles 
    • Use needle exchange programs to obtain clean needles if using drugs intravenously. These programs help prevent blood-to-blood infections, including hep C. 
  • Choose Licensed Practitioners for Body Art
    • Ensure your tattoos and piercings are done by licensed professionals using sterile equipment. 

Access to Hep C Treatment and Support 

At HepCMyWay, we specialize in treating patients in marginalized communities, including the LGBTQ+ community and active drug users. Our goal is to provide a safe and welcoming environment to ensure better access to hepatitis C treatment. 

Steps to Hep C Treatment: 

  • Get Diagnosed.
    • Central Outreach Wellness Center offers blood tests for hep C at multiple locations. We can also send a phlebotomist to you for convenience. 
  • Discuss Treatment Options.
    • If you test positive, our team will guide you through your treatment options and support you throughout your recovery journey. 
  • Receive Medication.
    • After a telemedicine appointment, we’ll ship your medication directly to your home. Thanks to advancements in medicine, hep C is now curable in most cases with just a few months of treatment. 

Our 3-step process makes accessing treatment straightforward: 

  1. Complete a Form: Fill out our patient-friendly form or call us. 
  2. Schedule Testing: Visit a lab or have a phlebotomist come to you for a blood draw. 
  3. Telemedicine Appointment: Discuss your results and treatment plan with a doctor, and receive your medication at home. After completing the medication, we’ll conduct a final test to ensure the infection is gone. 

You deserve to be hep C free.

If you’re looking for hep C treatment, HepCMyWay makes it easy to get the treatment you need as the leading provider of online hep C care. Start your journey to being hep C-free today!