Hepatitis C is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). Most people who have HCV feel well, have no symptoms, and do not know they have the disease. Others may experience a brief illness with symptoms usually appearing 6 to 12 weeks after being infected with the virus. The only way to know for sure that you have hepatitis C is to have a blood test.
But the good news is that Hep C is now considered curable for most people.
Transmission can occur through unprotected sex or blood-to-blood contact, such as sharing injection drug use equipment. The only way to know that you may be infected is to get tested. If you are sexually active or sharing needles, you should know your Hep C status. You should also know your partner’s status. Talk to your doctor, nurse practitioner or nurse, or visit a community organization that offers testing.
Protect yourself from becoming infected by:
- Using condoms during vaginal, rectal and oral sex
- Using lubricant during vaginal, rectal and oral sex to prevent tearing in the membranes of the vagina and rectum, as well as to help prevent condom breakage
- Not sharing sex toys
- Not sharing injection drug use equipment such as needles
Many community organizations provide free harm reduction supplies, including condoms (male and female), lubrication, and drug use supplies to help keep you safer.
If you get tested for Hep C and the results turn out to be positive, it means that you are infected with Hepatitis C. At first, you may react with shock to your diagnosis. Then you might go through a period of denial. However, medical treatment has come a long way and, for most people, Hep C can be cured!
Doctors and Nurse Practitioners, along with their colleagues like pharmacists, social workers, and dietitians, across the region can help get you on the path to the right treatment for you. In addition, there are several agencies in within the north with a mission to assist and support those who are living with HIV/AIDS. They can offer information, support and other resources that will help you make important choices about your care and treatment. Many of these organizations also provide an opportunity to connect with others who are living with Hep C, which can be greatly beneficial. There are also many online resources to help you learn about living with and being treated for Hep C.
From anywhere in the North, you can also self-refer to Northern Health’s HIV & Hepatitis C Specialist Support Team. This team of health care providers can support you with readiness for treatment, connections with primary care, advocating for access to programs, and much more.