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Hepatitis C virus (HCV)

HCV (hepatitis C virus) makes your liver swell and stops it from working right. About one-quarter of people living with HIV are also infected with hepatitis C. You can get HCV by:

  • Sharing drug needles
  • Getting pricked with a needle that has infected blood on it (hospital workers can get HCV this way)
  • Being born to a mother with hepatitis C
  • Getting a tattoo or body piercing with unclean tools
  • Having sex with an infected person, especially if you or your partner has other sexually transmitted infections

Many people with hepatitis C don't have any symptoms. But some people feel like they have the flu. They may have these symptoms, which can appear six to 12 weeks after exposure to the virus:

  • Feel tired
  • Upset stomach or pain
  • Fever
  • Don't want to eat
  • Diarrhea

They may also have these symptoms:

  • Dark yellow urine
  • Light-colored feces
  • Yellowish eyes and skin

HCV infection is more serious in persons with HIV. It leads to liver damage more quickly. Having HCV may affect the treatment of HIV infection. So, it's important for HIV-infected persons to know whether they are also infected with HCV. These steps can help prevent infection:

  • Don't share drug needles with anyone.
  • Wear gloves if you have to touch anyone's blood.
  • Don't use an infected person's toothbrush, razor, or anything else that could have blood on it.
  • If you get a tattoo or body piercing, make sure it's done with clean tools.
  • Use a condom during sex.

Chronic hepatitis C can be treated successfully, even in people with HIV. But HCV can go on for years without symptoms. Over time, HCV can cause your liver to stop working. If that happens, you will need a new liver. The surgery is called a liver transplant. It involves taking out the old, damaged liver and putting in a new, healthy one from a donor. Liver transplant is possible for some people with HIV.

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More information on Hepatitis C virus (HCV)

Read more from womenshealth.gov

  • Viral Hepatitis Fact Sheet - This fact sheet answers frequently asked questions about viral hepatitis and how the virus spreads. It also has information on the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of hepatitis.

Explore other publications and websites

Content last updated: July 01, 2011.

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