If you are HIV positive, ask if you also have the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)

Approximately 1 in 4 people with HIV are also infected with the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). If you are HIV positive, ask for a VCH screening test and start taking care of you as soon as possible, before your liver is affected.

The Hepatitis C virus is an infection that affects your liver. The word Hepatitis literally means “inflammation of the liver” and can cause this organ of your body not to function properly.

The liver is extremely important for your body and without it you could not live. Its importance is because it is responsible for removing toxic substances from your blood, helps digest food and store nutrients, and also helps fight infections.

According to the Centers for Disease Control of the United States, (CDC for its acronym in English), “about a quarter of people infected with HIV in the United States, are also infected with the Hepatitis C virus ( VHC) “.

What does one infection have to do with the other? As both are transmitted in almost the same way, it may not catch your attention, now that you know this fact, that the two diseases are so related. They are transmitted:

  • Through sexual intercourse with an infected person
  • By having a very active sexual life, with several sexual partners, without adequate protection
  • When using injected drugs and sharing syringes with infected people
  • Through blood transfusions or organ transplants of infected people
  • At the birth of an infected mother

Of all these forms of transmission, the people most at risk of having the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) and HIV at the same time are, first of all, the users of illegal injected drugs. According to data from the CDC, most cases of co-infection (people infected by the two types of virus), between 50% and 90%, arise as well.

Secondly, people with hemophilia who received treatments with blood products manufactured before 1987 are also at risk of having both infections, since until that year those products could not be checked to assess the presence of these viruses.

What happens if you have both infections? By itself, Hepatitis C is quite risky for health, and is one of the leading causes of chronic liver (liver) diseases in the United States.

And when you have HCV and HIV at the same time, the situation can be even more dangerous. It is said that HCV is an opportunistic infection, because it takes advantage of HIV to progress and cause damage to your liver faster than normal. The CDC reports that HCV infection becomes chronic in 75-85% of people who have HIV, and 70% develop chronic liver diseases such as cirrhosis. This is more than half!

Although it has not yet been proven that Hepatitis C causes HIV to progress more rapidly towards AIDS, it has become one of the main causes why patients who are HIV positive require hospitalization. It has even become one of the leading causes of death in these patients.

When you have both infections, the treatments generate a vicious circle that does not allow you to improve your health status. To start, some anti-HIV drugs affect the liver. But, treatment against HCV is less effective if you have HIV. And in the end, if your liver is failing, you can not metabolize antiretroviral (anti-HIV) medications. It is an endless spiral if you do not stop it in time.

Therefore, if you are HIV positive or think you may be at risk of being infected, talk to your doctor early to get an HCV test. If you are not infected with Hepatitis C, do not let your guard down and start as soon as possible to prevent this infection. And if you have both infections, it is important that you start the appropriate treatment for the two diseases. Make sure you understand how to control them before your liver is seriously affected. Talk with your doctor. It will probably recommend that you get vaccinated against other types of hepatitis A and B, if you have not done so) and that you avoid alcoholic beverages.

There’s still a lot you can do, so the sooner you start taking care of yourself, the better.

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