Hepatitis C Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What are the new treatments for hepatitis C?
A. Since 2014, new medications for the treatment of hepatitis C have been approved by the FDA. New medications have shortened treatment durations such that treatments are as short as 8 weeks but no longer than 24 weeks. These new medications will cure hepatitis C in more than 90% of people. The exact medication regimen and duration of treatment is determined by the results of lab tests.
Q. Will I have to take interferon?
A. New medications for the treatment of hepatitis C are now available, and SCC is no longer using interferon. Treatment regimens are now all pills and no longer involve injections.
Q. How much is hepatitis C treatment going to cost?
A. New medications for hepatitis C can be very expensive. However, SCC has a specialty trained staff of experts to work with you and your insurance company to get the medications covered. In addition, SCC’s care coordinators work closely with drug manufacturers to apply for free medications when insurance companies refuse to pay. Our staff will also assist in applications for copay assistance programs and grants to help with out-of-pocket expenses associated with hepatitis C treatment.
Q. How is hepatitis C transmitted?
A. The risk of acquiring hepatitis C through sexual contact is low because hepatitis C is not found in semen or vaginal fluid. However, it can be transmitted sexually when there is exposure to blood, usually during rough receptive anal sex or fisting.
Q. What activities can put me at risk for hepatitis C?
A. The following actions have the potential to transmit the hepatitis C Virus.
- Sharing needles, cookers, cotton, water, or any other works or equipment to inject drugs with someone who is infected with hepatitis C.
- Sharing needles or inks for tattooing or piercing with someone who is infected with hepatitis C.
- Receiving hepatitis C-infected blood or blood products before 1992.
- Exposure to a hepatitis C-infected individual’s blood through needle stick, blood splash to the eyes, mouth, or broken skin.
- Through sexual contact—primarily receptive anal sex among gay and bisexual men
For more information on your hepatitis C risk, please speak with one of our trained staff by calling 855-BTR-2KNW.
Q. Is hepatitis C sexually transmitted?
A. Hepatitis C is rarely transmitted through sexual intercourse. The virus is more likely to be transmitted if blood is present. For this reason rough sex, anal sex, sexual assault, fisting, and sex while a woman is having her period carry greater risk of transmission of hepatitis C.
Q. If I am exposed to hepatitis C, does that automatically mean I am infected?
A. No. Contact with hepatitis C-infected blood or an hepatitis C-positive individual does not equal infection. There are a number of variables that contribute to the likelihood of infection, including the amount of virus in the blood and the access of the virus to the blood stream.
Q. Can the virus live outside the body?
A. Unlike HIV, hepatitis C can live outside of the body. The virus can survive outside the body at room temperature, on environmental surfaces, for at least 16 hours but no longer than 4 days. A recent study showed that hepatitis C survived in syringes up to 63 days.
Q. What is the OraQuick hepatitis C test and how does it work?
A. The OraQuick hepatitis C antibody test is a fast and accurate test that provides easy to read results in 20 minutes. OraQuick is used to detect antibodies to hepatitis C in a sample of your blood. It is performed with a finger stick.
Q. What does my test result mean?
A. A preliminary positive result suggests that antibodies to hepatitis C may be present in your blood. Testing positive for hepatitis C antibodies does not necessarily mean that you are infected. However, roughly 80- 85% of people who have hepatitis C antibodies do have chronic infection. The other 15-20% of people will have the antibodies, but their immune system has fought off the virus. If you receive a preliminary positive result on the test, the result must be confirmed with a viral load (HCV RNA) to determine whether you have chronic hepatitis C infection. A negative test result means that hepatitis C antibodies were not detected in your blood at the time of testing. However, this does not completely rule out the possibility of being infected. If in the last two months you have engaged in behavior that has put you at risk, there is a possibility that you may still be infected. Recent infection may not produce enough antibodies to be detected at the time of your test. Ask one of our test counselors if you should consider getting tested again.
Q. What is the window period between infection and a positive hepatitis C test?
A. The window period is the period between infection and the time the body produces antibodies to hepatitis C virus in sufficient quantities to be detected by an antibody test.
Q. How can I protect myself against hepatitis C?
A. The best way of protecting yourself from hepatitis C is to avoid contact with other people’s blood. If possible, avoid sharing needles or works with others to inject legal or illegal drugs, practice safe tattooing and piercing, practice standard precautions in healthcare settings, avoid sharing toothbrushes, razors, and nail clippers, use adequate lubrication for anal sex, and avoid contact with blood during sexual activity. For more information please read How to Prevent Hepatitis C.