HIV and Viral Hepatitis
Viral Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. In the United States, the most common causes of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and hepatitis C virus (HCV). Each is distinct from the other and spread in slightly different ways. HBV and HCV infections are common among people who are at risk for, or living with, HIV. You can get some forms of viral hepatitis the same way you get HIV -- through sexual contact without a condom and injection drug use.
People with HIV infection in the United States are often affected by chronic viral hepatitis; about one-third are coinfected with either HBV or HCV. More people living with HIV are infected with HCV than with HBV. Viral hepatitis progresses faster and causes more liver-related health problems among people with HIV than among those who do not have HIV. Although treatment with anti-retroviral therapy has improved the health and extended the life expectancy of people with HIV, liver disease -- much of which is related to HBV and HCV causes non-AIDS-related deaths in this population.
People with HIV who are coinfected with either HBV or HCV are at increased risk for serious, life-threatening complications. As a result, anyone living with HIV should be tested for HBV and HCV. Coinfection with hepatitis may also complicate the management of HIV infection. To prevent coinfection for those who are not already infected with HBV, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends hepatitis A and B vaccination of high-risk patients. High-risk patients can include gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men1 and persons who inject drugs with HIV infection or AIDS. Read more about the recommendation.
Viral Hepatitis Transmission
People can be infected with the three most common types of hepatitis in these ways:
Viral Hepatitis Prevention
Testing and Treatment
Blood tests are used to detect viral hepatitis. The virus can be detected even if a person has no symptoms. In the case of HBV, the test result can help determine if a person has been infected and, if not, whether he or she would benefit from vaccination. If an HCV test is positive, a follow-up test must be done to confirm current infection.
Treatment for viral hepatitis varies. HAV infection usually runs its course over time and, and almost all people who become infected with HAV recover completely and do not have any lasting liver damage. Both chronic HBV and HCV infection can be treated with antiviral medications. For hepatitis B, treatment can delay or limit the effects of liver damage. Newly approved treatments for HCV infection are shorter, have fewer side effects, and now can cure the disease.
Coinfection with viral hepatitis may also complicate the treatment and management of HIV infection. Because viral hepatitis infection is often serious in people with HIV infection and may lead to liver damage more quickly, CDC recommends that all people with HIV infection be tested for HBV and HCV. CDC also recommends that everyone born from 1945 to 1965 should be tested at least once for HCV. While anyone can get Hepatitis C, up to 75% of adults infected with Hepatitis C were born from 1945 to 1965.
HIV/HBV and HIV/HCV coinfections can be effectively treated in many people, but treatment is complex, and people with coinfection should look for health care providers with expertise in the management of both HIV infection and viral hepatitis.
CDC has produced a 5-minute online Hepatitis Risk Assessment tool that allows people to answer questions privately, in their home or in a health care setting, and get tailored recommendations based on CDC's guidelines to discuss with their doctor. This tool can also determine viral which tests and vaccines are right for you.
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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