Telling others you have hep C
Partners, families and friends can play an important role in providing emotional and practical support to you but there is no guarantee that they will respond as supportively as you would like. They may need time to understand what a chronic condition like hepatitis C (hep C) means, so it may be useful to have booklets, brochures or website links on hand if you decide to tell others.
In Australia, there are only a small number of situations in which you are required by law to disclose that you have, or have ever had hep C:
The blood bank must be informed in pre-blood donation questionnaires (because you cannot donate blood if you have hep C).
Health care workers who perform ‘exposure prone procedures’, which is when a health care worker uses a sharp instrument inside the body of another person, for example, a dentist or surgeon.
Some insurance policies (particularly life insurance) require that you tell the insurer about any infections, disabilities, or illnesses that might influence their decision whether to insure you (or to adjust your premium). Income protection insurance may also fall into this category.
If you are a member of the Australian Defence Force (Navy, Army, or Air Force) and you have hep C, you will have to disclose this. You may be required to leave the forces if you have hep C, although this is determined on a case-by-case basis.
Having hep C does not mean that you should be treated differently from anyone else. This applies to all aspects of your everyday life, including maintaining privacy, buying or renting goods or services, obtaining health care services, applying for a job or getting a promotion at work.
As a person with hep C, you are covered by anti-discrimination laws. If something happens that seems discriminatory, you can access advice from work-related organisations such as your workplace union, a community legal centre, or from the anti-discrimination agency in your state or territory (see Advice and Support).
Hep C in the workplace
At work you are under no obligation to inform employers, work colleagues or customers about your hep C. The exception is if you are a health care worker who specifically carries out exposure prone procedures, or if you are a member of the Australian Defence Force, in which case you have a responsibility to disclose.
Your biggest workplace problem may be in taking time off due to hep C illness or unexpected treatment side-effects. If you do not want your employer to know about your hep C, ask your doctor to be unspecific when they fill in your time-off work certificate (e.g. medical condition rather than liver illness or hep C).
If you decide to tell your supervisor, they are legally required to maintain your privacy and support employees with any health considerations where reasonable.
Superannuation and insurance
If you become too ill to continue working, you may seek to withdraw some of your superannuation funds. This can usually only be done on compassionate grounds or in cases of severe financial hardship. For more information about this, you should talk to your superannuation provider or the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA - phone 1300 558 849).
Superannuation funds usually provide default disability and death insurance cover. Your medical history is not needed for this default level, but it may be required if you want higher levels of cover (such as income protection) or if you want to make a claim.
It is not unlawful for superannuation funds to ask if you have hepatitis or other infectious diseases, or whether you inject recreational drugs when they are considering your application for insurance cover.
If you feel you have been treated unfairly in regard to superannuation or insurance cover, phone the National Hepatitis Information Line for further information.
Job seeking and Centrelink
In pre-employment health checks, all questions should be about the advertised job and employers have no legal reason to know about your hep C. The exception is if you are a health care worker who carries out exposure prone procedures, or applying to become a member of the Australian Defence Force.
When filling out a pre-employment medical questionnaire, if you are asked about liver disease, hepatitis or hep C, you need to decide which would be worse, either mentioning hep C and possibly missing out on the job, or not mentioning it but having to explain at some later time why you did not. Phone the National Hepatitis Info Line to talk more about this issue.
When seeking welfare support or employment assistance, you do not need to tell Centrelink or Job Network agencies about your hep C. But if having hep C affects your ability to work, Centrelink, Job Network and your Job Capacity Assessor will need to know about it. They can help with additional support or reduced Centrelink obligations. If you are experiencing health concerns due to advanced liver disease, a job capacity assessment (JCA) can even remove you from job seeking requirements while you are unwell. Request a meeting for a JCA with your Job Network provider or meet with a Centrelink social worker for more information. In these cases, your information should be kept confidential and would not be passed on to potential employers.
Last review June 2018
For more information on hep C treatment, you can contact the National Hepatitis Info Line on 1800 437 222.
i.Hoofnagle, J. H. (1997), Hepatitis C: The clinical spectrum of disease. Hepatology, 26: 15S–20S. doi:10.1002/hep.510260703
ii.Journal article – Frontiers in Endocrinology https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4568414/