Hepatitis C and HIV coinfection
Living with HIV and Hepatitis C
It’s possible that a person with HIV won’t know they have hepatitis C unless they are specifically tested. In the past, sex was thought to be low risk for transmitting hepatitis C. In Australia, it is estimated that about 13% of people with HIV also have hepatitis C and there is a steady rate of new infections being reported amongst men living with HIV. Most of these men contracted hepatitis C through sex.
Hepatitis C and HIV are both passed on through blood-to-blood contact, therefore transmission of both viruses can be prevented by being blood aware. Sexual transmission of hepatitis C among HIV positive men who have sex with men is occurring.
Decisions around safe sex when someone has HIV/hepatitis C coinfection are likely to be very individual. Using condoms and/or gloves may be some options that can reduce a person’s risk of sexual transmission of hepatitis C.
It is recommended to avoid high risk sexual activities with multiple casual partners, and where there is potential for blood-to-blood contact including condomless anal sex.
You can also acquire hepatitis C through sharing injecting equipment. There is a higher risk through tattooing and piercing in some South-East Asian countries where universal health procedures have not been followed.
Evidence suggests that HIV worsens hepatitis C-related liver disease and can hasten the progression to decompensated liver disease, cirrhosis, and lead to earlier development of liver cancer or liver failure. It is unclear what impact hepatitis C infection has on HIV progression.
It is important to note that if the Hep C antibody test is positive, this does not necessarily mean that you still have the hepatitis C virus. Up to 15% of people living with HIV, who test antibody positive to hepatitis C have cleared the virus through their own immune response. Therefore, once a positive antibody test is returned, a second test called a ‘polymerase chain reaction’ (PCR) test is needed to see whether or not you still have the virus.
The Hep C treatment campaign out of Harm Reduction Victoria called ‘things have changed’ highlights the new facts when it comes to receiving treatment. We encourage everyone to prioritise their health and get tested.
Treatment for hepatitis C is changing and improving with the introduction of new direct acting antiviral (DAA) drugs. Recent research indicates that DAA use in people with coinfection shows the same treatment success as people living without HIV.
The new DAA treatments are showing greater success rates with significantly reduced side-effects. The Australian government has committed $1billion toward eliminating hepatitis C. This means that from 1 March 2016, people living with hepatitis C can access the new DAAs that are subsidised through the PBS (pharmaceutical benefits scheme).
For more information on the new treatments see <insert media on HRVic posters>
In addition, the Burnet Institute are undertaking a study for people who are living with HIV and hepatitis C to see the impact of new treatments. For more information click here.
Links to additional resources on Hep C and HIV co-infection are below:
Hepatitis Info line: 1800 038 003