Hepatitis C is slowly killing more than 200,000 Australians and many don’t even know they have the virus or are choosing to ignore it.
Joshua Roberts believes he contracted the virus when he got his first tattoo at age 17.
But it was nearly 10 years later that he was diagnosed after a non-related routine blood test.
It was a life sentence for the 59-year-old.
The social stigma surrounding the virus often means sufferers are shunned in social circles, perpetuating a cycle of disadvantage they can carry for life.
“Some of the, what I call ‘uneducated fools’, think it’s like leprosy and your arms are going to fall off if they touch you,” Joshua said.
“And they're talking about stuff they know nothing about, it’s an uneducated point of view.”
But a range of new drugs with a 90 to 95 per cent success rate are offering hope to chronic sufferers of the virus.
The government listed these new medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme on May 1 this year, meaning people with hepatitis C will now be able to afford the new treatment.
Joshua is six weeks into his treatment after his local GP recommended it to him.
Unfortunately, he also has cirrhosis of the liver, a common effect of hepatitis C, which the new drug will not fix.
“I’m too old to be getting a liver transplant,” he said.
“But I hope my participation will help improve the drug and help others.”
One of the most shocking things about hepatitis C is that many of those who contract the virus, either don’t know they have it or choose to do nothing about it.
In part, this is because there are often no symptoms until the liver is damaged.
Now there are new treatments, Joshua said it was important people were honest with themselves about having the virus and sought treatment as soon as possible.
“I would advise people strongly that if they find themselves tired and fatigued, to get a blood test from their doctor,” he said.
“If you have Hepatitis C, get on this drug and you could still have a long life.”
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