HIV and Hep C Testing
HIV and Hepatitis C, also known as Hep C, are two infectious diseases that spread through physical contact, especially through blood. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus and is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, if not treated. Unlike some other viruses, the human body can’t get rid of HIV completely, even with treatment. Hepatitis C is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). The abbreviation HCV can stand for either the virus or the infection it causes and can be a short-term (acute) or a long-term (chronic) illness.
If you think you or a loved one have either HIV or Hep C it’s important to get HIV and Hep C testing because:
- Hepatitis C is a liver infection that can lead to cancer and liver failure
- HCV is spread mainly through contact with the blood of a person who has HCV. Most people become infected with HCV by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 25% of people with HIV in the United States also have HCV. Infection with both HIV and HCV is called HIV/HCV coinfection.
- People with both HIV and HCV may be treated for both infections. HIV and HCV medicines are provided carefully to avoid drug-drug interactions and those taking the medicines are closely monitored for any side effects.
HIV and Hep C Testing
Every person who has HIV should get tested for HCV. Usually a person will first get an HCV antibody test. This test checks for HCV antibodies in the blood – the disease-fighting proteins that the body produces in response to HCV infection. HIV and Hep C testing is the best way to detect and begin treating both diseases.
The best way to prevent HCV infection is to never inject drugs or to stop injecting drugs if you currently do so by getting into and staying in a drug treatment program. If you or your loved one continue injecting drugs, always use new, sterile needles or syringes, and never reuse or share needles or syringes, water, or other drug preparation equipment.
A positive result on an HCV antibody test means that the person has been exposed to HCV at some point in their life. However, a positive antibody test does not necessarily mean the person has HCV. For this reason, a positive result on an HCV antibody test must be confirmed by a second, follow-up test.
To learn more about these diseases and HIV and Hep C testing, contact Community Health Connections. We’re here to help.