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HEP C + antibody screening and worried...
Jun 9, 2004

Dear Dr. McGovern,

Today I was informed by my PCP that I tested positive for HCV antibodies and awaiting my results from a confirmation test.

My last sexual encounter was in late January, during which I used a condom, however the woman later informed me she was on the end of her period. Since then I have experienced fatigue, muscle aches, weight loss (15 lbs) and I have tested (-) for HIV three times, the last being 110 days after the encounter.

I am confused, fearful, and wondering if I need to get re-tested for HIV. My PCP says no, that my last test for HIV was conclusive and thinks that past tattoos could be the cause of the antibodies.

My liver enzymes were slightly elevated in the last two months, but now are back in normal range.

Can I consider the possibility of HCV to be from the tattoos, or the encounter in the end of January. Also, would you suggest another HIV test? Thank you for your thoughts and insight!

MF

Response from Dr. McGovern

I agree with your PCP that you have been thoroughly evaluated for HIV and you do not have to pursue further testing.

Tattoos have been thought by some to be a way to transmit hepatitis C in the past. Most tattoo parlors are now well aware of the need for disposal of equipment after each tatoo.

Hepatitis C can be transmitted through sex but it is uncommon. Also you used a condom so your risk was even that much lower. Between steady couples the risk is about 1-3 percent only. HCV is spread maily by direct contact with human blood. Other routes include blood transfusions before 1992, injection drug use (even after just one time). Some times it is difficult to say exactly how a person got hepatitis C.

The most important thing to determine now is to see if you have hepatitis C virus in your blood because about 20 percent clear the virus. If the virus persists then you may want to discuss treatment in the future with your physician but there is a lot of time to figure out what to do. In the meantime, get vaccinated for hepatitis A and B and keep your alcohol intake down to low amounts. No one knows what level is safe but probably one drink a day is okay. Dr. McGovern

Dr. McGovern



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