Hepatitis - lack of education causes patient and their families to be stigmatized

May 09, 1997

Halfway man says lack of education about disease causes patient and their families to be stigmatized

By Kate Coleman

Staff Writer

Alton Korzendorfer has four children between the ages of 6 and 13. They all have been vaccinated for hepatitis B. And although they do not have the virus, because their father does, they are stigmatized.

"They don't seem to have any friends. People on the outside seem to be pretty much afraid of them," he says.

Since his diagnosis in 1992, Korzendorfer and his wife, Lori, whom he describes as a "superwoman," have gone through denial and anger about the disease. They are coming to accept it, but that doesn't mean they are ready to give up.


"I have a wife and four kids. I need to stay alive as long as I can. I'm not a quitter," he says.

Korzendorfer will be moving his family to Pittsburgh so he can be part of a trial of a new drug in August. The University of Pittsburgh study will provide medication - or a placebo - for three months to five patients. There will be six months of follow-up. After that, study participants are guaranteed a year's supply of the drug.

There are risks.The experimental drug never has been tested on humans. Korzendorfer and his doctors won't know if he's receiving the medication or a sugar pill. But he wants to try. He has self-injected interferon and has taken two other drugs with harsh side effects. He hopes the new drug will kill the virus, the levels of which are too high for him to be considered for a liver transplant. To receive a transplant, the level of hepatitis B in DNA must be 0. Otherwise, the virus would destroy the new liver.

It won't be easy for the Korzendorfer family to move from their Halfway home, but there are some positives. Lori Korzendorfer plans to continue her education and build some job skills. Alton Korzendorfer says that vaccination for hepatitis B is required for all students enrolled in the Pittsburgh public schools.

He won't have to worry about other kids being afraid of his children.

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Donations for the Korzendorfer family may be sent in care of Lois Johnston to Hickory Elementary School, 11101 Hickory School Road, Williamsport, Md. 21795.

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