Did you know that all adults age 18-79 should be tested for hepatitis C at least once? If you aren’t sure if you’ve been tested before, talk to your provider about it the next time you check in. Ask if the test is right for you.
Hepatitis C is a disease that affects your liver. It is caused by a virus, called the hepatitis C virus, or HCV for short. Approximately 2.4 million people in the United States are thought to have hepatitis C.
May is Hepatitis Awareness Month.
Veterans have higher rates of hepatitis C than the general population
Any Veteran enrolled in VA care can ask for a hepatitis C test. You may or may not need an appointment to get tested at your local VA medical center. Different sites have different practices. Your provider will give you basic information about the testing process and to answer any questions that you have about hepatitis C or the test itself.
If you are diagnosed with hepatitis C, new treatments for hepatitis C are able to cure most people in about 12 weeks. VA has cured over 100,000 Veterans of hepatitis C so far!
If you test negative, you may experience feelings of relief. You should remember, though, that just because you tested negative, you are not immune from hepatitis C. Continue to protect yourself from becoming infected.
Here are some ways to reduce your risk of getting hepatitis C:
- If you inject drugs, don’t ever share your needles, or works with anyone else. If you need help with this, talk to your provider about sterile syringe programs and safe injection practices and visit: https://www.cdc.gov/ssp/.
- Always practice safe sex. Though risk of hepatitis C transmission via sex is low, it is important to use a latex barrier, such as a condom (or rubber) every time you have sex. Using condoms also reduces your chances of getting some sexually transmitted infections.
- Do not use anyone else’s razor, toothbrush, or other personal care items.
May is Hepatitis Awareness Month and May 19th is Hepatitis Testing Day, the perfect time to check if you’ve had a hepatitis C test. Thank you for taking action to protect your health.
Learn more about hepatitis C: https://www.hepatitis.va.gov/hcv/patient/index.asp.
Elizabeth Maguire is the communications lead for the HIV, Hepatitis and Related Conditions Program.