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Digital Subscriptions > Attitude > 288 > THE NEW GAY STIGMA

THE NEW GAY STIGMA

GAY MEN ARE SUFFERING PREJUDICE REMINISCENT OF THAT DURING THE HIV/AIDS CRISIS. ONLY THIS TIME, IT’S THOSE WITH HEPATITIS C WHO ARE BEING SINGLED OUT. BUT WHAT IS THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DISEASE, AND HOW SHOULD WE REACT?

PAUL FLEMING PHOTOGRAPH: BARTEK SZMIGULSKI

JOE PHILLIPS PHOTOGRAPH: LUXXXER

Earlier this year, Paul Fleming was overjoyed when he received the news that he had cleared hepatitis C (HCV) from his blood. He had lived with the virus since 2010.

Most commonly transmitted through blood, HCV affects the liver and can cause cirrhosis (scarring), with symptoms including skin problems and weight loss, and, if left untreated, can lead to liver failure and cancer.

It was Paul’s second diagnosis with HCV. The first time he was diagnosed with the virus was in 2005. He was lucky because his body cleared it naturally within three months between his first and second test.

“It just happens,” he says. “But if you’re exposed again it doesn’t mean to say that you will clear it again.”

And he wasn’t so fortunate second time around, going on to live with the virus for the next seven years.

Twice a year, Paul, 53, attended Chelsea and Westminster Hospital for tests to monitor the amount of the virus in his blood. “They measured the amount of hardening that the virus was doing to my liver. Anything under seven was absolutely fine, anything over, then your liver’s beginning to harden up, and that’s the start of cirrhosis of the liver, so they monitor it even more.

“Every time mine was about3 — 3.5 maximum, there was no progression.”

The effects of HCV can be extremely debilitating, especially if a person also has HIV, as Paul does.

“[For HIV] you’re swallowing pills every day. They are not as toxic as they were, but there’s a reasonable amount of toxicity in an antiretroviral in order to blast out the HIV, so your liver’s working hard, coping with, processing and dealing with the HIV. You don’t want to give it any more work to do.”

While Paul managed to escape what are sometimes severe physical symptoms, it was the lack of information around the virus that took its toll on his well-being.

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About Attitude

On the cover: WORLD EXCLUSIVE Sam Smith interviewed by Elton John. Plus, Kele Okereke on being a gay dad, Drag Race's Peppermint, Tori Amos on fighting Trump, Beach Rats star Harris Dickinson, and is Hep C - the new gay stigma?
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