Test for Hepatitis C

Do you have HIV? Get tested for hepatitis C every three to six months. Are you HIV-negative? In some cases you should also consider getting tested.

Why Get Tested?

Even if you take all the  precautions, you still might catch hepatitis C. The sooner you know you have it, the sooner you can start treatment. After successful treatment, you will no longer be infectious to others.

Checks at Least Twice a Year

If you have HIV and you are being treated for it, your HIV care provider will check your liver function twice a year. If he or she finds irregular levels, you will be offered follow-up testing for hepatitis C.

Testing when you are HIV-negative

Hepatitis C is mainly found in HIV-positive people, but there are also cases of HIV-negative people who have also caught this virus. Do you feel you are at risk even though you are HIV-negative? Go you your doctor and tell him or her that hepatitis C is prevalent in your sex network and that you would like to be tested.

Very sexually active? Get tested every three months

Are you regularly having sex that could put you at risk for contracting hepatitis C ?. Get tested every three months.

  • For these extra tests, go to your STI clinic and ask them if they test for hepatitis C
  • If the STI clinic does not test for hepatitis C, then go to your doctor and ask him or her to do a ‘liver enzym test’ If the tests show that there are elevated amounts of liver enzymes in the blood, ask your General Practioner to contact your HIV care provider. They will discuss getting a follow-up test to know for sure whether you have hepatitis C or not..

 

 

A sex partner has informed you that he is infected: get tested as soon as possible

When a partner you have had sex with less than a year ago informs you that he has hepatitis C, get tested as soon as possible at the STI clinic or your General Practitioner. Ask for a liver enzyme test or, [toggle-text[1]]even better[toggle-text[1]], an RNA test, so that you can start treatment as quickly as possible to prevent spreading the disease.

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An RNA test will indicate hepatitis C infection even at an early stage. The only problem with an RNA test is that it is quite expensive. Doctors will not order this test without a good reason. It may help if you tell him or her that it is important that you know as soon as possible if you have hepatitis.

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Different types of tests

There are different types of tests. The liver enzyme test is usually a good starting point. If the levels are elevated, your doctor could decide to use a different test to establish if you have been infected or not with hepatitis C. 

Liver enzyme levels

If your liver is inflamed because of hepatitis C, the organ will produce higher levels of certain enzymes. Elevated liver enzymes levels in your blood may indicate a hepatitis C infection. If there are elevated liver enzyme levels in the blood, a follow-up test will need to be conducted to see if a hepatitis C infection is or is not Increased levels of liver enzymes may be caused by something other than hepatitis C. present.

Antibodies

An antibody test measures whether your body has produced antibodies against hepatitis C. If antibodies are found in your blood, you have hepatitis C. The problem with this test is that antibodies do not show up in the blood until two months after infection. If you also have HIV, this may take even longer. This means a test may show negative even if you are infected with hepatitis C. A recent infection might be missed.

Antigens

A recente infection is often diagnosed earlier if you do a test that also measures antigens (or hepatitis C virus proteins). One advantage is that the virus can be detected even if you have already had hepatitis C ( ‘re-infection’ In the case of a re-infection, it usually makes no sense to do an antibody test: antibodies are still present in your body even after recovery. In this case it is better to do an antigen test. ).

RNA

An RNA test shows the presence of the hepatitis C RNA in your blood. It also shows your viral load, or the number of virus copies per ml blood. If the hepatitis C infection is acute, the viral load can be anywhere from a hundred thousand to a few million. The advantage of an RNA test is that it gives results quicker. The disadvantage is that the test is still quite expensive This is why this test is not ordered until you have elevated liver enzyme levels or if you are at a higher risk (for example when you have been informed by a sex partner that he has been diagnosed with hepatitis C. .

We regularly update the information on this site. Last modified: january 2017

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