Fear and Stigma, No More! Hep C Peer Navigator Story of Ana Faro
Ana Faro worked as a peer navigator for the AIDS Center of Queens County (ACQC) involved in the IDUHA Hep C Peer Navigation Program. She is passionate about making Hep C a priority and ensuring quality services are provided to people with a history of drug use. Ana became motivated in this work after a series of life events. Around twenty years ago, she tested antibody positive for Hep C but got the Hep C RNA test and found that she had cleared the virus.
“I found out that the viral load was at an undetectable level so I was cleared. But that doesn’t happen to everyone, only 25% of the cases. I tell this to my clients who are afraid of knowing the results. Not always the news is bad.”
But Hep C remained in her life, as some of her friends became infected and eventually died of liver complications. She became concerned with the lack of attention to Hep C among the medical community, especially when there is co-infection with HIV.
“I have friends and clients with HIV who died of liver damage because of Hep C. The viral load for HIV was undetectable but they didn’t know the damage that Hep C was doing… the body was swelling, retaining water, the liver was damaged to the point that doing the treatment, at the time it was interferon, wasn’t a good choice or it was too late.”
She has been navigating injection-drug-using clients through services for HIV and Hepatitis C for the last seven years, helping them overcome fear and stigma.
“It’s this attitude that because a lot of these people are drug users and so they are disposable people. But these are people who worked, had families, also contribute, regardless of what you think of their choices. Unfortunately, you still see this with doctors and the medical community who deny services and don’t want anything to do with drug users.”
Ana is a fervent advocate for the right to quality services for her clients who are active drug users or are currently under treatment for addiction. Having gone through treatment for heroin addiction, Ana uses her personal experience to connect with her clients and to guide them through the process of harm reduction, and becoming free of Hep C. Her life experience is instrumental in peer navigation, as well as her background as a medical assistant, and the trainings she has completed at Harm Reduction Coalition, the NYC Health Department and pharmaceutical companies.
This story is part of a Peer Profile project showcasing the experiences, skills, and knowledge of peer navigators in the IDUHA Hep C Peer Navigation Program.
Written by Diana Diaz Muñoz
Diana graduated from the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College with a master in public health and is currently a program coordinator at the NYC Health Department in the Viral Hepatitis Program. In the past year, Diana worked as the program coordinator of the IDUHA Hep C Peer Navigation Program. Some of her interests include community health education, health equity, and communications.