The hepatitis C virus (HCV), also known as hep C, is a blood-borne virus that can cause liver damage, liver disease, and other serious health problems. Some people who become infected with the disease only have it for a short time, get better on their own, and potentially never experience symptoms. This is called an acute hepatitis c infection, but most people will develop a chronic infection, which requires medical treatment.
Luckily, antiviral medications can cure chronic hepatitis with just a few months of treatment. However, when another virus, chronic infection, or disease is present at the same time as hep C, treatment may look different. A person who has multiple infectious diseases at once is said to have a coinfection. Hepatitis C coinfection can be a severe health issue, as it increases the risk of complications or even death, depending on the other infection present.
At HepCMyWay, we're dedicated to helping those with chronic hepatitis c infection get the care and treatment they need. We understand how complex coinfection can be and are here to provide support.
Common Coinfections with Hepatitis C
A person can be coinfected with the hepatitis C virus and any other infection. That said, the most common and dangerous hep c co infections are hepatitis B and HIV.
Hepatitis B (HBV)
As another form of viral hepatitis, hepatitis B is a viral infection that can cause serious liver damage. It's also easily transmitted through contact with blood, sexual contact, and mother-to-child transmission. According to the , the vast majority of people who have both hep B and hep C acquired the viruses via intravenous drug use, as well as exposure to unclean needles, or unsterilized medical equipment.
In cases of coinfection, the hepatitis C virus typically becomes the dominant virus, suppressing HBV levels. However, clinical reports indicate that if only the hep C virus is addressed, the hep B virus can reactivate after treatment. As such, those with coinfection should receive a personalized treatment plan that targets both viruses simultaneously, especially because the combination of these viruses can potentially lead to more severe liver disease and increases the person's risk of developing liver cancer.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV is a virus that weakens the immune system, leaving it unable to fight off other infections. This virus is transmitted through unprotected sexual contact, blood transfusion, and mother-to-child transmission. Once again, intravenous drug use is the most common way of acquiring both viruses, but for gay men, unprotected sex is another common cause of coinfection. , about 21% of American adults with HIV also tested positive for hepatitis C.
Coinfection with HIV and hep C requires special treatment. The combination of the two viruses usually leads to a quicker progression of liver disease, making effective and timely treatment of the utmost importance. However, the medications typically used to treat each virus can have adverse effects when taken together, meaning healthcare providers must be especially mindful when providing treatment to hepatitis C and HIV-infected patients.
Diagnosis and Testing for Coinfections
If you believe you might have a hepatitis C infection, or any other infectious disease, getting tested is the first step to receiving the care and treatment you need. Early detection of coinfections is crucial for several reasons:
- Accurate Treatment: Coinfections can impact the strength of each infection, and can also affect the way particular medication works. Identifying and treating both viruses ensures that patients receive the most effective and appropriate care.
- Preventing Complications: By diagnosing and treating coinfections early, you can reduce the likelihood of developing more serious health problems like cirrhosis or liver cancer.
- Reducing Transmission: Early detection and treatment of coinfections can help reduce the risk of transmission to others.
Prevention Strategies for Coinfections
There are several strategies you can follow to prevent hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV, or a combination of these diseases, including:
- Getting vaccinated for hepatitis A and B: Hepatitis A and B vaccinations are highly effective in preventing these viral infections, and while hepatitis C does not have a vaccine, the other two can help reduce the risk of coinfection. Ensure you receive the recommended doses to maintain long-term immunity.
- Practicing safe sex: Using barrier methods like condoms and dental dams during sexual activities significantly reduces the risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis, and other sexually transmitted infections. Open communication with partners about sexual health and getting regularly tested also contribute to safer sex practices.
- Using harm reduction strategies for injection drug use: If you use intravenous drugs, adopting harm reduction strategies such as using sterile needles, not sharing equipment, and accessing clean injection supplies from needle exchange programs can minimize the risk of acquiring bloodborne infections like HIV and hepatitis.
- Getting regular testing and screening (for at-risk individuals): Regular screenings for HIV, hepatitis, and other infections are crucial for early detection and timely treatment, particularly for individuals in high-risk groups. Consult your healthcare provider to determine the appropriate testing frequency based on your specific risk factors.
Get Ready to be Hep C Free
The HepCMyWay team is proud to make hepatitis c treatment accessible to everyone. Whether you have co infections to keep in mind or you’re just looking to cure your hep C, our team is here to help. In just 3 simple steps, you can get the personalized care and support you need to start your journey toward a hepatitis C-free future:
- Step 1: Fill out our , or give us a call if you’d rather speak to someone.
- Step 2: We'll work with you to schedule a time for you to visit a lab, or we'll send one of our experienced, compassionate phlebotomists to draw your blood. We’ll then send that sample to the lab, where pretreatment testing will be conducted.
- Step 3: Once you have the results of your test, we'll schedule a with you so we can discuss how to move forward with your hep C doctor. If you decide to start treatment, we’ll ship your meds right to your home!
Let us make your hepatitis c treatment journey as easy and stress-free as possible!