Pablo’s Story: Live Free and Stay Healthy!

10/25/2022

Blog Subjects

HIV

Hola, my name is Pa! I am writing this to express how Hep C has affected my life. I contracted Hep C
through MSM anal sex. I was told I had Hep C after I had blood work done in 2015, if I am not mistaken. It
was a somewhat shocking discovery for me, even though I had previously been diagnosed with HIV.
Finding out I had HCV didn’t feel as debilitating as finding out I was living with HIV. Actually, even when I
found out that I had HIV in 2006, I didn’t overreact, or isolate, like I normally do when I have such dire
news. After I was notified of my HIV status, I just wanted to know what my next step would be so that I
could move on with my life. I was not surprised or confused by the HIV diagnosis, really, because I had
engaged in a lot of unprotected sex. “Raw” sex was exciting and arousing to me. I knew the risks for
STI’s. There was a rush associated with getting away with it, like eating a puffer fish where you know that
1 in 1000 are poisonous. I was such a rebel when I was younger!

I had not foreseen the possibility of getting HCV, though.

My family has never been told about my HCV diagnosis (same goes for my HIV status) because it would
destroy them. What’s more, I didn’t want them to feed into the whole stereotypical, stigmatic, and
uneducated notion that all bi-men had HIV (or that all bisexual men are hairdreessers, or any of the other
stereotypes out there!). My family is very traditional, and I have found that sometimes no information is
better than some information.

I tell you all of this to say this: When the doctor told me I had Hep C, my initial response was, “What’s the
next step?” and “How can I survive with this new disease?” I had gathered all the information I could, to
the best of my ability, on how to live with this disease. To my most frightening surprise I learned that
interferon treatment was HORRIBLE and ineffective, and was, at the time, the only way to get Hep C
treated. So the medical professionals told me to wait. I heard rumors that a new treatment was coming
out soon. And so I waited for some years for this new treatment that supposedly had little to no side
effects.

While I was waiting, the criminalization of people who use drugs caught up with me, and I was arrested
and taken to prison. Worst experience of my existence. However, during my time in prison they offered
me the new treatment for Hep C, one of the DAA’s. Of course, I accepted it immediately. I was told there
would be little to no side effects, and if I did experience any to quickly report them. I was on it for 8 weeks.
I missed a dose, and they simply extended my treatment to 9 weeks. My side effects included headache,
nausea, and diarrhea, but those were probably due to interactions with my other medications!

For people who have just been diagnosed with Hep C: Don’t panic! I would most definitely recommend
treatment to anyone! Hep C can be contracted through contact any with blood, both from sex and reusing
needles. It can lead to long-term health issues, including liver damage, liver cancer, or even death. HCV
is the most common reason for liver transplant in the United States, and is one of the primary causes of
death by infectious disease. But, even though this all sounds sacray, the treatment is effective and easy
to take (maybe just don’t read the side effects and then start to believe that you have all of them, like I
did!). Really, the biggest challenge for me was how to get it treated, because then interferon was the only
option. But now we all have access to the new treatments, and I am happy to encourage my friends,
family, and even strangers to get treated!

Now that I have been cured from Hep C, I live life with a greater regard for life. I am very careful and I feel
all around happy that I have done the treatment. A misconception I had about Hep C was it was only
transmitted through needles. I now know that HCV can be transmitted by any activity where blood comes
into contact with blood. I appreciate anyone who took the time to read this. Thank you. “Live free and stay
healthy” is my motto.

Gracias!

Pa

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