A long-term HIV survivor, Darrin Aiken was also in recovery when he learned in early 1996 that he had hepatitis C. Aiken shared some of his thoughts about his hep C experience in an email exchange.

When and how did you learn you had hepatitis C? Were you surprised?

I started living a new life in recovery in November 1994. As part of that, I began working for a graphics company that provided health insurance, and I was starting to take care of myself. It was late 1995 or early 1996 when my doctor told me I had hepatitis C. I suppose I was somewhat surprised, but didn’t think too much about it at the time.

How did you feel when you learned you had hepatitis C?

I felt good about myself because I had some information about my health that was vital to me moving forward. God, the Creator, Energies, a Higher Power—whatever folks want to call it—is loving and wants the best thing for you. It’s great to have that in your life. I call mine God, and I have connected to him daily for many years; that’s how I make it through the difficult times. Living a life of recovery, I have support from many people. My doctor suggested that we observe its progress, as my HCV viral load was low at that time. I felt empowered by the information I had to make the right decisions about living with hep C and when to begin treatment.

Has having had hepatitis C and getting treatment changed anything for you?

I have changed. I am more aware of what I come in contact with, and more conscious of what can happen. I think and observe everything around me. I am more aware when it comes to others’ blood and bodily fluids. I’ve been able to share my experience with my family, friends, and with the clients where I work so that they can protect themselves, and protect others from exposure. It’s become easier to share with folks that there is hope, especially with today’s treatments.

Aiken works for APLA Health in Los Angeles, where he is the program coordinator for the African American Gay Men’s Health Initiative. His work involves conversations with black gay men about HIV/STI prevention. Discussions often include such topics as homophobia and stigma, and how these can make a person vulnerable to infection.

Read about Sherri Lewis’ own Road to recovery from Hepatitis C in Can’t Stop the Music.