Take charge of your health
Hepatitis C can only be detected through a blood test. Testing includes a two-step process: taking an HCV antibody test; and if the antibody test is positive, taking a viral load test (called HCV RNA or HCV PCR) to confirm that you are chronically infected with HCV (the virus has established itself in your body). The viral load test is necessary because in some cases, your immune system may have begun to clear the hepatitis C virus from your body without treatment. Around 15-25% of people exposed to HCV will clear the infection from their body naturally.
The most important thing to know: if you test positive on the antibody test, you must confirm with the viral load test.
Getting tested for HCV can potentially keep you from passing the virus to someone else and allows you to start treatment sooner, which is key to lowering the chance of developing cirrhosis, liver failure, or liver cancer. Since HCV has few symptoms—and the virus can damage your liver without being detected—TPAN recommends routine testing to check for chronic HCV.
If you test positive for HCV, TPAN’s prevention staff and on-site medical clinic can arrange for a confirmatory test. Once you’ve been exposed to the virus, whether you’ve been treated and cured or have cleared the virus on your own, antibody tests for the hepatitis C virus will always return a positive result. That’s why the confirmatory blood test is necessary. TPAN can also provide information on treatment options, managing side effects of treatment, and hepatitis C case management, if needed.
Not sure if you should be tested? TPAN recommends you get an HCV test if you:
- Currently inject or snort drugs, or have in the past
- Have received a tattoo or body piercing from equipment that did not meet health and safety standards
- Have had unprotected (condomless) sex
- Were born between 1945-1965 (are a ‘Baby Boomer’)
- Received a blood transfusion before 1992
- Are living with HIV