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The Famous Faces of Hepatitis C

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  • What Is Hepatitis C?

    What Is Hepatitis C?

    Hepatitis C is a potentially serious disease of the liver. It’s caused by an infection and spreads through contact with the blood of an infected individual. In some cases, hepatitis C clears up on its own. For chronic cases, treatment includes medications and healthy lifestyle changes. If the damage to the liver has been too severe, a liver transplant may be the last option for survival.

    As with any disease, even the rich and famous are vulnerable to hepatitis C. Some famous celebrities in recent years have gone public with their hepatitis C status. Read on to see which well-known figures have faced a hepatitis C diagnosis. 

  • Pamela Anderson

    Pamela Anderson

    Former Playboy Playmate and TV star Pamela Anderson went public with her hepatitis C status in 2002. She said she was infected years earlier by a tattoo needle she shared with former husband Tommy Lee. She also said Lee had hepatitis C, but the Motley Crue drummer denied it. Hepatitis C can be spread by sharing dirty needles used for tattoos, piercing, or intravenous drug use. Anderson said she received outpatient care at UCLA Medical Center.

  • Natalie Cole

    Natalie Cole

    Grammy-winning singer Natalie Cole became an activist for hepatitis C awareness after her 2008 diagnosis. She blamed drug use in the 1970s for her infection. Cole’s condition was life-threatening, and she required a kidney and liver transplant. Since then, she has helped educate people about hepatitis C prevention and testing, and works to remove the stigma surrounding the disease. Cole said she probably had the disease for decades before it was discovered. The disease may be present for a long time without any obvious symptoms. If you ever shared a needle with a drug user, you may be at risk.

  • Gregg Allman

    Gregg Allman

    Like Natalie Cole, Allman used his celebrity status to raise awareness of hepatitis C testing and treatment. The founder of the Allman Brothers Band has helped spread the word through the Tune in to Hep C public service campaign. His message is that getting tested is crucial since anyone is at risk of developing the condition. Allman believes that he became infected by a tattoo needle when he was 20, but he wasn’t diagnosed until 1999. The damage done by the disease led to a liver transplant in 2010. 

  • Natasha Lyonne

    Natasha Lyonne

    The actress who appeared in “American Pie” and “The Slums of Beverly Hills,” developed hepatitis C after years of drug use. In 2005, Lyonne was hospitalized with a heart infection and a collapsed lung. Part of her treatment included methadone therapy, which helps heroin users deal with their withdrawal symptoms. Today, Natasha is clean and is enjoying a successful acting career. She landed a part in “Orange is the New Black,” and continues to make movies.

  • David Crosby

    David Crosby

    Rock and roll legend David Crosby has been open about his longtime addiction to heroin and cocaine. He even served time in prison on drug charges. He sobered up in prison and says he’s been clean since the mid-1980s. A founder of the group Crosby, Stills, and Nash, Crosby learned he had hepatitis C in 1994, and had lost most of his liver function. He received a liver transplant that year and continues to make music.

  • Steven Tyler

    Steven Tyler

    Another rock star with a long history of drug abuse, Steven Tyler announced that he had been treated for hepatitis C in 2006. The Aerosmith lead singer underwent 11 months of treatment with interferon. The medication is used to treat hepatitis as well as certain forms of cancer. Interferon is a commonly-prescribed drug, but the side effects can be troubling. Hepatitis C can lie dormant without symptoms for many years, but it can lead to scarring of the liver, also known as cirrhosis. Cirrhosis can lead to liver cancer. Tyler said in 2006 that he was free of hepatitis C.

  • Naomi Judd

    Naomi Judd

    Grammy-winning country singer Naomi Judd started a foundation to help with hepatitis C research in the late 1990s. She was diagnosed with the disease in 1990. She says she was told she only had a few years left to live. She retired from touring with her daughter Wynonna in 1991. After treatment with interferon, Judd was eventually declared free of the disease. She believes she was infected with tainted blood while working as a nurse when she was younger. 

  • Anthony Kiedis

    Anthony Kiedis

    The lead singer of the rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers blames years of heroin use for his infection with hepatitis C. Kiedis was diagnosed in the 1990s. A longtime fitness enthusiast, he used intravenous ozone therapy and a healthy lifestyle to help treat his disease. He says he also used herbal remedies to help cleanse his liver. Check with your doctor before taking any medications or supplements.  Some of these products can damage the liver. 

  • Evel Knievel

    Evel Knievel

    The motorcycle daredevil probably became infected from tainted blood. It likely happened during blood transfusion after one of his many crashes in the 1960s and 1970s. Blood used in transfusions wasn’t checked for hepatitis C until 1992. Knievel estimated that he underwent 15 major operations, including a liver transplant in 1999. His health was also harmed by years of alcohol abuse. People with hepatitis C are urged not to drink alcohol. It can further harm the liver. Knievel retired from his stunt work in 1980. He died in 2007 at age 69. 

  • Getting Tested

    Getting Tested

    Knowing that successful, well-known figures can get hepatitis C should make you more willing to get tested if you’re at risk. Knowing that many of them survived and thrived should offer you hope about treatment. This is not a disease that only affects the poor or those without access to good healthcare. People at high risk include those born between 1945 and 1965. You’re also at risk if you received a blood transfusion or organ transplant prior to July 1992. People who have used needles to inject drugs and healthcare workers exposed to blood should also be tested.