Lehigh Valley

Northampton County man battling HIV and hepatitis remains hopeful

Northampton County man battling HIV and hepatitis remains hopeful

BANGOR, Pa. - A Northampton County man has had more than his fair share of medical struggles.

For more than 30 years, Ron Smith been living with serious diseases he received from contaminated blood products. His family hopes others find hope and inspiration in their story.

Smith, who lives in the Bangor area of Northampton County, has HIV and hepatitis C, which he said he received from contaminated blood products in the early 80s. He needed blood products twice because he has the bleeding disorder hemophilia.

"This happened all prior to 1983 was the first year they started testing blood," he said.

But he did not find out he was living with HIV and hepatitis until almost 20 years after contracting them.

"I was pretty much flabbergasted, you know, I don't think anyone really expects to get that kind of a diagnosis," he said.

His wife, Karen Thatcher-Smith, said, "They told him they didn't know how long he had and I can't imagine receiving that information."

It's been years of medical ups and downs for Ron, who is now 55. He's had his wife Karen and their family by his side. She even became a nurse after they started dating. They say the kind of HIV Ron has is rare.

"A non-progressor they call it," said Ron. "You have the virus but you're not passing it on, there's nothing viral about it."

As for the hepatitis C, the family is hoping a new treatment Ron went through last year will bring them only positive answers.

"I'll be retested and that's the time that's most critical. They say if it's not there after three months then you've pretty much kicked it," said Ron.

Ron and Karen want others to know there is reason to have hope.

"For anybody that has the hepatitis, that they're continuously coming out with new treatments," said Ron.

Karen added, "Even if you're given a bad hand, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to end with a bad hand."

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