Natalie Cole Tells The Root About Living With Hep C for 25 Years

The performer is taking on a campaign to raise awareness about the disease in black and Latino communities, where death rates are far higher than the population as a whole.

By Jorge Rivas Aug 01, 2011

Nine time Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter and performer Natalie Cole is opening up about living with hepatitis C for 25 years. The daughter of legendary singer Nat King Cole recently launched a campaign called Tune In to Hep C, with the American Liver Foundation, to increase awareness of a disease that affects African Americans and Latinos in the U.S. disproportionately. 

In a Q&A with Cole talks about living with the disease, the stigma surrounding it and what she’s up to now, including a recent "Real Housewives of New York City" appearance. Here’s a snippet of the Q&A from The

The Root: Has having hep C impacted your music career at all?

Natalie Cole: Luckily, it didn’t have an impact on my career initially. It was from IV drug use–shooting heroin–about 25 years ago, sharing needles back in the day when it was "free this, free that." I’m sure there are a lot of people who I got high with that also have it. And I didn’t get diagnosed until three years ago. So I was living with this virus in my body all that time, which is an extraordinary thing to discover. Hep C can actually lie dormant in a person’s body for many, many years.

TR: In the black community, we see higher rates of HIV and perhaps more stigma, as well. Is that the case with hep C, and is it important for you as an African-American woman to be one of the voices raising awareness?

NC: Absolutely. In the black community, it’s no joke. And we need to be particularly focused on the impact on the black community–also the Hispanic community. We don’t necessarily get the message. Some people might not be on the Internet. Some people might not have access to the information. So we need to get it out, by word of mouth or whatever we need to do.

Approximately 3.2 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C virus infection. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2007, "non-Hispanic Blacks" were 60 percent more likely to die from viral hepatitis, as compared to "non-Hispanic Whites." Latinos are twice as likely to be diagnosed with hepatitis a as "non-Hispanic Whites."

Visit the to read their Q&A with Cole and check out for more information on the campaign.