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I just learned I'm HIV&Hepatitis C positive
Sep 9, 2000

I just learned from a recent routine physical that I'm both HIV and Hepatitis C positive. I'm sure this is somewhat common. I'm very worried needless to say. What treatments are available? What can I expect? My internal med specialist has referred me to a liver specialist and an infectious disease specialist within the same medical group. Am I on the right track? Any advice as to how to proceed?

Response from Dr. Pavia

As you guessed, you are in good company. There are hundreds of thousands of people in the US who are coinfected with Hep C and HIV. These are complicated diseases, and the fact that you have found this site shows you have already started to educate yourself, which is key.

I won't try and tell you about treatments yet, you need to get more information about your situation, find doctors you will be comfortable working with, and understand the choices. Suffice it to say we have excellent treatments for HIV at this point and you can expect to do well. Yes, there are side effects that some people experience, but we seem to be in a backlash, where you now hear more about side effects than about being able to expect a reasonably normal life from a once uniformly fatal disease. Hepatitis C is more complicated, and you will need to take your time.

Time is also key. You do not need to be in a hurry to start treatment. You have time to learn, and to get set up with a team you like. An infectious disease doc is a good place to start for HIV, but make sure that s/he does a lot of HIV, stays up to date, and most important, will listen to you and work with you. A liver specialist is also an important consultant to have. Not everyone with Hep C needs treatment right away, and you will need to figure this out. You may need a liver biopsy to help decide.

Check out the Hepatitis forum on this site as well. Be a thoughtful consumer of online info though. The web has a little of everything, some of it great and some of it frankly dangerous. You are going to do very well, but it is a long (not necessarily strange) trip you are starting on. Good luck to you.

ATP

Andrew T. Pavia, M.D.



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