To tell or not to tell?
If you have hep C, that is the question. But the answer isn’t the same for everyone.
Paul Bolter, community outreach and education manager at the Greater New York Division of the American Liver Foundation, says a lot depends on the people and the setting.
“If you’re in a loving, committed relationship and know you will be supported, then we suggest you tell your partner because you’re going to need support,” he says.
But he adds that if you’re in an abusive relationship, don’t feel safe, or worry that other people might find out, telling might not be the right choice.
What’s more, even a loving partner may need some time to absorb the news.
Be patient and stay open to any questions your partner may have, advises Lynn Wang, MD, a gynecologist and sexuality counselor in Philadelphia.
For instance, they might want to know how you got hep C and whether they could have it, too.
Bolter says those are hard questions to answer because there’s still a lot of stigma around the disease.
“When people hear hep C, they think of drug use -- one of the main risk factors,” he says.
But hep C can spread in other ways, too. You might have been exposed if you had a blood transfusion or organ transplant before 1992. Or if your body piercer or tattoo artist didn’t use clean tools. Also, health care workers can get hep C from needle sticks.
If you don’t feel comfortable saying how you got it, just say you don’t know. Many people aren’t 100% sure how they got hep C.
What to Say to Your Partner
Assure your partner that hep C isn’t spread through kissing, touching, or sharing dishes. The chance of getting it through sex is very low -- less than 1% if you and your partner only have sex with each other. Unlike an STD, hep C can only spread through blood.
“Two pools of blood have to come together,” Bolter says. “For most people, if there’s no blood, there’s no infection.”