|HIV & HCV
Jan 23, 1998
My partner has hiv and hepatitis c. I am also hiv + and believe that I got it from him. Is it possible to get hiv from someone who also has hepatitis c without getting hepatitis also?
From what I understand there are over 4 million cases of hepatitis c in the United States and aprox. 1 million cases of hiv. So it would stand to reason that hepatitis c is actually easier to catch.
| Response from Mr. Sowadsky
Hi. Thank you for your question. According to a recent report, in the United States, the number of newly acquired cases of acute Hepatitis C infection, is estimated to be approximately 28,000 each year (as of 1995). Approximately 25% to 30% of these infections are symptomatic. Overall, approximately 3.9 million Americans are believed to be infected (most without any symptoms). In the USA, there are an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 deaths each year result from Hepatitis C associated chronic liver disease.
Although HIV and Hepatitis C are transmitted in similar ways, there are distinct differences between the two. Both are transmitted through direct blood-to-blood contact, but Hepatitis C is more infectious this way than HIV. And both viruses are transmitted sexually, but HIV is more infectious this way than Hepatitis C.
If you are sharing needles (or you get occupationally exposed to blood) with a person who is infected with both HIV and Hepatitis C, you are much more likely to get infected with Hepatitis C, than you would for HIV. For example, the overall risk from a needlestick from a known HIV positive patient is 0.3%. This compares to the risks for Hepatitis C (1.8% to 10% depending on the study), and Hepatitis B (up to 30%). In other words, through a needlestick injury (or direct exposure to blood), the risk of infection is greater for both Hepatitis B and C, as compared to HIV. Therefore, when we are talking about blood exposures, Hepatitis C (and Hepatitis B) are easier to catch than HIV. But transmission for any of these viruses is still possible.
If you are having sex with a person who is infected with both HIV and Hepatitis C, you are much more likely to get infected with HIV, than you would for Hepatitis C. According to a recent review article on Hepatitis C, "The United States Public Health Service has estimated that the risk of sexual transmission [of Hepatitis C] is approximately 5%, well below the risk of sexual transmission of Hepatitis B or Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)." Therefore, when we are talking about sexual exposures, HIV is easier to catch than Hepatitis C.
In your specific case, if you are having unprotected sexual contact with your partner, your risks of reinfection with HIV exceed the risks for Hepatitis C (although transmission for either virus is possible). If you share needles with your partner, your risks for Hepatitis C exceed the risks for HIV (although transmission for either virus is possible).
So although both HIV and Hepatitis C are transmitted in similar ways, the levels of risk differs between the two, depending upon the specific type of exposure involved.
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