It is important to have a doctor who knows about and takes responsibility for both HIV and hepatitis C.
The recommendation to see a specialist is included in the UK HIV standards of care.
If you have been diagnosed with both HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) at the same time, then this is a double blow.
If the infections were both recent, then you may be more shocked by the HIV diagnosis, and should use some of the HIV-specific support services available.
It is important to remember that both HIV and HCV are treatable for most patients, including the majority of HIV-positive people.
Importantly, research into HIV and HCV is likely to lead to new drugs for each virus, that may be more effective, and easier to tolerate.
People around you are not at risk from catching hepatitis C (HCV) from day-to-day activities, unless they come into contact with your blood.
In practice, this just means taking care not to share anything that may contain traces of blood, such as toothbrushes, razors, and nail scissors and nail files.
Unlike HIV, HCV can live outside of the body for days to weeks, and is infectious even after blood has dried.
The risk of sexual transmission is generally very low for heterosexuals. However, a recent increase in sexual transmission among gay men makes this question more complicated. Sexual transmission in gay men has mainly been reported in HIV-positive men.
Having one type of HCV virus doesn't protect you from being infected with a different type of HCV.
If you have cleared HCV and are no longer infected, you are not protected from becoming infected again with HCV in the future.
Reinfection with a different strain of HIV is more controversial. It certainly happens, but it is less common and it usually only has serious implications when the new virus is resistant to HIV treatment. This has been reported though and is the subject of futher research.
The word hepatitis just means inflammation of the liver. Other viral infections, heavy alcohol consumption, chemical fumes, or some medications can all cause hepatitis.
There are several different hepatitis viruses, each named alphabetically, in the order that they were discovered.
Before it was discovered in 1989, hepatitis C was called "non-A non-B hepatitis".
All HIV-positive people should be vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B. The immune responses to these vaccines should be checked once a year and boosted when necessary.
After a hepatitis C diagnosis it is important to check that you are protected against hepatitis A and B. You really dont want another hepatitis virus to complicate your health.
You should be vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B , unless you are already immune to them.
In the UK, these vaccinations are free and available from your HIV or HCV clinic, from a sexual health clinic or from your general doctor (GP).
Vaccines work by generating an immune response to part of a virus. The effectiveness of hepatitis A and hepatitis B vaccinations depends on your CD4 count. The higher your count, the higher the chance that the vaccine will work.
If you are starting with a low CD4 count, and are at low risk for contracting hepatitis A or hepatitis B, it may be better to start HIV treatment and then be vaccinated when your immune system is stronger. You may also improve the chance of a successful response by using a higher dose of the vaccine.
Once a year your clinic should check that the vaccines are still working, and give you a booster vaccination if necessary.
There is no vaccination against hepatitis C.