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Does My HIV Status Affect My Hepatitis C Antibody Test? A Specialist Weighs In

August 16, 2015

Lynn Taylor, M.D., F.A.C.P.

Lynn Taylor, M.D., F.A.C.P.

Hepatitis C testing is an essential part of curbing the hepatitis C epidemic in America. As we urge more people to get tested, that also means we need to make sure that people are aware of how hepatitis C testing works, and what the correct window periods are for testing. In TheBody.com's Ask the Experts forums, hepatitis C expert Lynn Taylor, M.D., F.A.C.P., answers questions regarding hepatitis C treatment and prevention, including questions about hepatitis C testing.

On April 18, 2015, a user asked:

I have protected sex, however [after using] recreational drugs with an HIV-positive man, I am HIV positive, as well. I am not sure whether he has hep C. Therefore, I went after 36 days for HCV antibody test which was negative.

Doctor said, if I would be infected, it would be already shown in the test as antibodies even after such a short period. Is it true? I am afraid since from January I have chronic flu, nevertheless without presence of other acute HCV symptoms.

Taylor answered:

There can be delayed development of the hepatitis C antibody in people who are infected with HIV. For example in a study by Dr. Emma Thomson, a tiny fraction of men living with HIV developed hepatitis C antibody over a year after exposure to hep C. So no a negative hep C antibody result at this time does not exclude new hepatitis C infection. The lack of symptoms does not mean a person did not catch hep C, as we typically don't feel anything when we catch hep C, or symptoms are mild and non-specific.

Unprotected anal intercourse (sex in the butt) between men living with HIV poses the highest risk for sexual transmission. Being under the influence of drugs during sex can contribute to the risk of acquiring hep C. It is very important that you had protected sex but as you allude to, when under the influence of drugs we are not always as safe as we should be.

Talk with your doctor about getting blood tests for hep C RNA, the viral load; a liver panel for ALT and AST; and getting tested for other sexually transmitted infections including syphilis. All best to you.

Have you gotten a hepatitis C test? Talk to your doctor about testing for hepatitis C, even if you don't think you exhibit symptoms and regardless of your current HIV status.

Mathew Rodriguez is the community editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @mathewrodriguez, like his Facebook page or visit him on his personal website.


Copyright © 2015 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.


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