Name of disease (also known as): Hepatitis C Virus (HCV, Hep C, Hep, and The Bad Hepatitis).
Common/Uncommon: Very common among injecting drug users. In the UK 0.5% of the population is thought to be infected with Hep C.
Severity: It is virus which leads to liver disease, jaundice, liver cancer, and even death. There are treatments available for those infected with Hep C but these can be hard-going and many people drop-out of treatment due to the severe side-effects.
How it is transferred: Any contact with brings infected blood into the bloodstream, including injecting drugs with an infected needle or cutting yourself with an infected object such as a razor or toothbrush, non-sterile piercing equipment, or blood sharing with an infected person. It can be caught through sexual activity by any sex which involves contact with blood such as vigorous anal sex, sex with a person with open cuts/sores, or menstrual blood is thought to be risky.
Symptoms: Only around one in four people will have symptoms during the first six months after being infected.
Those who do have symptoms will liken this to the flu. People with Hepatitis C long-term term may also have no symptoms for many years but those who have symptoms experience severe tiredness, low mood and depression, issues with memory and and abdominal bloating/pain. These people may go out to develop jaundice which is a yellowing of the eyes and skin.
Testing method: Blood Test. This is not regularly offered as part of a sexual health screen so you may need to ask specifically for a Hep C test.
Treatment: Treatment is Inteferon which can take up to 12 months. Treatment is not 100% effective. Although 1 in 5 people will clear Hep C themselves without treatment.
How it can be prevented: Only using reputable piercing places which use clean needles. Using barrier methods (condoms, femidoms) for sexual contact are best.
● Hep C can be passed on without sexual contact
● Hep C can live outside of the body for a long time
● Hep C can lead to liver cancer and death
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