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Things to know about hep C

How is hepatitis C prevented?

There’s no vaccine for hepatitis C.

These can reduce the risk of getting hepatitis C:

  • not sharing injecting equipment, swabs, filters, syringes, spoons, water, etc when injecting drugs or steroids
  • not sharing straws or banknotes when snorting drugs
  • using a condom for anal sex
  • using latex gloves for fisting
  • not sharing pots of lube
  • avoid sharing toothbrushes, nail scissors, razors and so on with someone you know has the hepatitis C virus.

It’s a good idea not to share sex toys as the virus can live in dried blood for a few weeks. Alternatively, cover them with a fresh condom for each person they’re used on or wash them with a mix of one part bleach and 9 parts water then rinse.

You should also take steps to prevent the spread of infections during any sex scene that draws blood or if being pierced, tattooed or undergoing medical procedures.

There should be no risk in the UK with medical care or reputable piercing and tattooing establishments.

How is hepatitis C treated?

Infection is confirmed through a blood test which looks for hepatitis C antibodies, which can take up to six months to appear in the blood.

For guys with HIV who may be immunocompromised, the antibody may not be detectable and it may take an RNA test to detect the virus.

Treatment can lasts 12 weeks to six to 12 months and involves weekly injections and or daily pills. This treatment often has flu-like side effects but now has a high success rate.

If hepatitis C is cured, it can be caught again.

If you have hep C, you should get the vaccination against hep A and B to protect your liver from further damage.

Cutting down on drugs and alcohol will also do your liver a favour.

Hepatitis C and HIV

Hepatitis C may get worse more quickly if you have HIV as well. If you have both infections you and your doctor may have to decide which illness needs treating first, as HIV drugs and hepatitis C infection can both damage the liver.

More information

You can get more information about hepatitis C from these organisations:

The Hepatitis C Trust

Helpline: 0845 223 4424

The NHS Hepatitis C Service

HCV Advocate

Get more detailed information about hepatitis A, B and C.

Last review: 31/08/2018
Next review: 31/08/2021