Hank Johnson
Congressman Hank Johnson

DeKalb County, Georgia
Diagnosed with Hep C in 1998

The following is an excerpt from the Hep Summer 2013 cover story:

When describing his emotions over receiving a cure for hepatitis C in 2012, U.S. Representative Hank Johnson had this to say: “I could not express myself more than just a scream of delight.”

The Democratic congressman, who represents DeKalb County in the eastern suburbs of Atlanta, and who describes himself as “a humane, compassionate progressive,” is now advocating for all Americans affected by viral hepatitis, ready to stand strong as a public face of the disease.

Not so long ago, though, he was silent about his condition, which he discovered after visiting the doctor with complaints of chronic fatigue in 1998. He was elected to Congress in 2006 and, concerned about his political future, kept his hep C status secret.

Unable to wait for newer, simplified therapies with fewer side effects, Johnson chose a lull between election cycles to undergo a third round of treatment after two failed attempts. Of the six months spent on therapy, he says, “I never felt worse in my life.”

This coincided with the fight in Congress to pass the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Serving as a regional whip, he was a key player in mobilizing efforts to pass the landmark health care legislation. As he struggled with the treatment’s devastating side effects, he reminded himself of how fortunate he was to have excellent health insurance and was driven all the more to fight the good fight on behalf of the American people.

“I did not want to be just one of the chosen few” with health coverage, he says. “I think everyone should have the ability to become healthier.”

Click here to read the complete story.