After the Hepatitis C Cure: Post-Treatment Care
A hepatitis C cure, also called a sustained virologic response (SVR), almost always results in improved liver health.
A concern that many people have after they've been cured is whether or not the virus is truly gone. Less than 1% of people cured of HCV experience a return of the virus, so an SVR is a true cure. You will still have HCV antibodies, for which you will always test positive, but that does not mean you are still infected, because there is no virus to potentially damage your liver. People also often wonder about the risk of infecting others: With no virus, there's nothing to transmit. Antibodies are not infectious.
Following your cure, the AASLD/IDSA HCV Guidelines recommend the following:
Other Important Considerations
Alcohol use: Without the virus, it's common to wonder if it's safe to drink alcohol again. We know that alcohol, even drinking just 1-2 glasses per day, accelerates HCV disease and increases risks of cirrhosis and other liver complications. But what about after someone has been cured? We don't know; there has not been any research to help us make an informed recommendation on this subject. If you have cirrhosis, you cannot drink alcohol safely. If you have more moderate levels of fibrosis you should speak with your medical provider as she/he knows your liver health and other potential complications that may help you determine if you can or cannot drink alcohol.
HCV reinfection: Once cured, you'll have HCV antibodies but they don't necessarily offer protection from reinfection. If you use drugs, don't share injecting equipment (syringes, cookers, cotton filters, water, etc.), straws for snorting, or pipes from smoking. If you're HIV-positive, be mindful of sexual transmission of HCV, and use condoms and other practices to minimize risk of blood exposure during sex. Screen for HCV at least once a year, but you might want to do it more frequently to catch HCV reinfection as quickly as possible.
Cirrhosis and fibrosis: These two conditions may reverse after a cure. Yes, your liver may return to normal.
Talk with your medical provider about any other lab tests or follow-up that she/he recommends for your specific health needs.
If you have any other questions, call HELP-4-HEP at (877) HELP-4-HEP, (877) 435-7443, to speak with a trained HCV counselor/health educator.
Tips for Healthy Living With Cirrhosis
With these and any other tips, talk with your medical provider about the best things you can do to live as healthy as you can with cirrhosis.
This article was provided by Test Positive Aware Network. It is a part of the publication Positively Aware. Visit TPAN's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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