One of the main reasons that hepatitis C carries a weight of stigma is for its association with illicit drug use. This is because in Australia, sharing injecting equipment is the most common way for the virus to be transmitted.
People who use drugs are vulnerable to stigmas associated with engaging in a criminalised activity, addiction, and mental health, which in turn feeds into the social stigmas attached to hepatitis C.
In his experience working with and being involved in the lives of people who have used drugs, Peter has always maintained a core value of “not judging people and treating them as anyone else”.
In reflecting on his experience working with people who have a history of using drugs, Peter says “I guess I’ve been really fortunate in that I’ve seen people go through those journeys and I’m often a part of those journeys – I go to weddings, I go to christenings and those kinds of things…
So you do get a different perspective. Some of that sort of stuff is quite different to how other health providers who are only seeing them [people who use drugs] coming in stressing about ‘I need to get onto a program doc, I’m wanting to detox, I’m wanting to do this…’ so they’re seeing them in crisis all the time.
My research has really allowed me to see people go through all the ebbs and flows of life”.