Friends,

There is an urgent soul-cry from the culture. From our neighbors. This cry has been silenced by the church and ignored by the media.

Hepatitis C.

Yes, Hepatitis C.

Here are the facts about Hepatitis C, according to this article I just read yesterday:

Hepatitis C is spread mainly by blood-to-blood contact. Injection drug users, people who snort drugs and share straws or rolled dollar bills, and men who have sex with men are at risk. However, the disease can also be spread in tattoo and piercing parlors that do not use proper sterilization techniques. Prior to HIV and AIDS, sterilization procedures in hospitals and other healthcare settings were not as stringent as they are now. The disease could also have been spread via blood transfusions, as it was not even identified until 1989. For all of the above risk factors, baby boomers have been designated as especially at risk. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called for all people born between 1945 and 1965 to be tested for the virus. The CDC estimates that more than 3 million Americans have the disease, and most don’t know they have it. Hepatitis C can linger for decades before presenting symptoms such as jaundice and fatigue. If left untreated, it can cause cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, and eventually death.

Did you catch that?

3 million Americans.

If you go to a church with a hundred members or more, that means you’ve probably shared a pew with someone who has it.

Like most Christians who were taught that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and therefore the wall banners on said temple had better reach below the base of the Doric columns, when you think about Hepatitis C you probably think “unclean!” After all, Hepatitis C is spread by blood-to-blood contact, and that means sharing needles, snorting cocaine out of the same rolled-up dollar bill, or gay sex. All things that “good Christians” would never do. All unclean things.

Unclean.

Unwanted.

Unloved.

That’s what a person who discovers they have Hepatitis C will feel like coming out with their secrets in an evangelical church. Even if they did nothing wrong and got it through a blood transfusion, they’ll still feel dirty.

Fortunately, there’s a way forward.

There are now real cures available for Hepatitis C. The pharmaceutical companies that made these cures have pushed the recalcitrant CDC to encourage all “baby boomers” to get screened to find out if this massive population would be eligible to get one of their drugs. The drugs are very expensive, unfortunately, and it can be an arduous process for someone to get approved for treatment.

And yet the Church remains silent.

I’ve never heard anyone talk about Hepatitis C in church. Have you? The silence is deafening. The stigma and shame are terrible. The people affected by Hepatitis C are not the people we’re trying to “attract” to our “cool” churches: Drug addicts, old people, and people who share the same dollar bill to snort cocaine. We’d only want people who have their own individual dollar bills to snort cocaine out of clapping along with us in the pew.

This is a gospel issue.

How can Christians sing “Nothing But The Blood” and ignore blood-borne diseases? How can we claim to be “pro-life” while we’re failing to call for the government to subsidize pharmaceutical companies? We’re willing to protect babies while they’re in the womb, but if they needed a dollar of their own to snort cocaine through, we’d crumple it up in our fist.

We must act.

The Church’s refusal to advocate for this issue is literally killing people. We can’t hold back. The journey may be risky, but we have to do this. The world is watching us.

The author is a practitioner of the healing arts who sojourns across the Atlantic with his wild-eyed progeny and his equal-in-every-way life partner-in-crime. He loves to fight for justice and challenge the status quo, especially on his Twitter account. He has serious thoughts on health care, too.

Posted by Matthew Loftus

Matthew Loftus teaches and practices Family Medicine in Baltimore and East Africa. His work has been featured in Christianity Today, Comment, & First Things and he is a regular contributor for Christ and Pop Culture. You can learn more about his work and writing at www.MatthewAndMaggie.org