Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C is a viral infection that affects the liver. An estimated 2.4 million people are living with hepatitis C in the U.S. Most people do not experience any symptoms. Hepatitis C can be cured with prescription medication. Left untreated, it can lead to liver disease, cancer and even death.

Click on a question below to learn more about hepatitis C.

How do you get hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus. Today, hepatitis C is most often transmitted by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. If you inject drugs, always use new, sterile needles and don’t reuse or share needles, syringes, or other injection drug equipment.

Hepatitis C can also be transmitted during sex. When used consistently and correctly, condoms protect against hepatitis C and many other STDs.

What are the symptoms of hepatitis C?

Most people with hepatitis C do not experience any symptoms. If people do have symptoms, they may go unnoticed or look like other common illnesses, like the flu.

If symptoms do appear, they usually occur 6-12 weeks after infection and may include: stomach pain, nausea and vomiting, joint pain, fever, or dark-colored urine. Because hepatitis C affects the liver, it may also cause jaundice - when the eyes and skin yellow.

What's involved in hepatitis C testing?

Hepatitis C is tested with a blood sample. To find free and low-cost STD testing near you, go to greaterthan.org/services.

How do you treat hepatitis C?

Hepatitis C can be a short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) disease. Acute hepatitis C is typically monitored but not treated, and may go away on its own without treatment. According to the CDC, almost 85% of people with hepatitis C will develop chronic infection.

There are several medications available to treat chronic hepatitis C. New safe and effective treatments can cure most people living with the virus.

What happens if hepatitis C is not treated?

Left untreated, chronic hepatitis C can lead to liver cancer, liver cirrhosis and even death.

How are hepatitis C and HIV connected?

People living with HIV are at higher risk for hepatitis C. Of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the U.S., about 1 in 4 also have hepatitis C.

Having both HIV and hepatitis C (called co-infection) means increased risk for liver disease, liver failure and liver-related death from hepatitis C. Because hepatitis is often serious in people living with HIV and may lead to liver damage more quickly, the CDC recommends people living with, or at risk for HIV, also get tested for hepatitis C.

The information on this page is adapted from the CDC, NIH AIDSInfo and Planned Parenthood.

Getting Tested

HIV and other STD testing is available at most doctor's offices and health clinics. Many health departments also offer testing. It's fast, easy and most people pay little or nothing.

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