Hepatitis C

What is it?

Hepatitis C (HCV) is a virus that causes inflammation (swelling) of the liver and may result in liver disease.

How do you get it?

Hepatitis C is passed on by blood and other bodily fluids. Hepatitis C can be transmitted by activities where it can get into your blood. A small amount of blood can carry enough of the virus to cause infection.

You can get hepatitis C through sharing injecting equipment, razors and toothbrushes, un-sterile tattoo and piercing equipment.  Hepatitis C can also be passed on from sex, though this is not common, including through anal (bum) sex, especially if one of the people having sex is HIV-positive.

What are the signs?

Some people do not have any signs that they have hepatitis C - you could have hepatis C and pass it on without knowing. If you do show signs they may include flu-like symptoms, nausea, abdominal pain, dark urine (piss), pale faeces (shit) and yellowing of the skin and eyes known as jaundice.  

Tests for Hepatitis C

When testing for hepatitis C you will need to have a blood test. The test will check for antibodies in your blood, and it will check to see if hepatitis is in your blood. It can take up to three months for hepatitis to show in your blood after infection, though special blood tests can show it up after two weeks.

Treatment for Hepatitis C

Almost 100% of people with hepatitis C can now be cured. There are several treatments available with minimal side-effects and will take from 8 to 12 weeks. There are no injections involved and it just requires you to take pills (medicine). If you have hepatitis C talk to your doctor about the correct treatment .

Preventing Hepatitis C

Unlike hepatitis A and B there is no vaccine available to prevent a person from getting hepatitis C.

To reduce the risk of transmission of hepatitis C:

  • avoid sharing injecting equipment including needles, syringes, swabs, spoons, filters, water and tourniquets
  • always use new injecting equipment
  • always wash your hands before and after injecting
  • avoid sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, razors and nail scissors / clippers
  • make sure body artists use new, sterile equipment for tattooing, body piercing and other body art
  • use condoms, and water-based lube during sex (especially if there is blood or any STIs present) and latex gloves for fisting
  • wear disposal gloves if you give someone first aid or are cleaning up blood or body fluids

Hepatitis C and HIV

If you have HIV, you should be tested regularly for hepatitis C. People who inject drugs have a higher rate of having both hepatitis C and HIV.

If you have HIV and are not receiving treatment you will have more chance of health impacts from hepatitis C. If you are on treatment for HIV this will allow for hepatitis C to remain under control until your doctor has advised you on the best treatment plan.

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