Kevin Stow, an ex-drug user and previous hepatitis C sufferer shares his experiences and talks about how being cleared of hepatitis C helped give him the momentum to overcome his drug addiction.
Kevin is an ambassador for the recently launched I’m Worth… campaign, which aims to address the stigma that many people with hepatitis C face, encouraging and empowering people living with hepatitis C to access care and services no matter how they were infected.
‘I contracted hepatitis C during a period of my life when I was frequently sharing pins and cooking spoons with other people. I was diagnosed during a visit to the doctor. He took a sample of my blood and later I found out I tested positive for hepatitis C.
‘All I really knew when I was diagnosed was that it was some kind of liver disease, but I didn’t know much more than that. At that time, I didn’t want to know more. I wasn’t interested in getting treatment.
‘I would often wake up in the morning and feel tired and lethargic. I was never sure whether those feelings were as a result of my drug withdrawal, or my hepatitis.
‘There were times when I felt there was no point trying to overcome hepatitis C. To me, my life was already over. I felt that I had no other choice, other than to keep using. It all felt too much for me to handle.
‘The turning point for me was when a team from the local hospital hepatology unit came into the drugs clinic and I started speaking to more people about my hepatitis C. When I was ready to consider treatment and drug recovery, the support I received was fantastic. My key workers played a very important role in helping me understand hepatitis C treatment options and some of the consequences of living with untreated hepatitis C. I believe this information and support is what saved my life.
‘After treatment, my hepatitis C was cured and I felt like I had one less burden in my life. Getting cured was an important step in my recovery journey. I felt beating hepatitis C gave me the motivation to face other challenges, including becoming drug free.
‘Being cured of hepatitis C completely changed my outlook. When I stopped using and was in drug recovery, I became a volunteer hepatitis peer mentor. Now I have a full-time job in Southampton drugs clinic. I’m very passionate about educating people about the importance of considering hepatitis C treatment. I know what a difference it has made in my life. I hope that if I can play a role in helping someone else know more, they can take the right steps to try and clear hepatitis C.
‘It doesn’t matter how you got hepatitis C, no one deserves to live with a potentially life threatening disease.’
Kevin Stow is an ambassador of the I’m Worth… campaign. You can view his story, alongside others at imworth.co.uk/ambassadors
Despite effective medicines that can cure the majority of people with hepatitis C now available on the NHS, most people diagnosed with hepatitis C in England remain untreated – one of the lowest treatment rates among northern European countries.2,3
Choosing whether or not to start treatment is not always an easy decision. Drug support services can play a vital role in providing current and previous drug users with hepatitis C information and support, educating clients that hepatitis C is treatable and, in the majority of patients, can be cured, can help them make important decisions about their health.
For more information on the campaign and to access materials designed to support people living with hepatitis C please visit www.imworth.co.uk
1 PHE. Improving access to, and completion of, hepatitis C treatment. 2015
2 PHE. Hepatitis C in the UK. 2015/2014
3 Hawkes, N. Confronting the silent epidemic: a critical review of hepatitis C management in the UK. www.hepctrust.org.uk/Resources/HepC%20New/Hep%20C%20Resources/Reports/HALO _Media_Report_FINAL. pdf
(Last accessed August 2016)
The I’m Worth… campaign is a disease awareness programme, that has been developed and paid for by Gilead Sciences Ltd, a science-based pharmaceutical company. Content development has been supported by input from numerous patient groups with an interest in hepatitis C in the UK.
August 2016, HCV/UK/16-08/CI/2138