FAQs

What are these exciting new hepatitis C treatments I’ve heard about?

Until 1 March 2016 a combination drug-therapy of pegylated interferon and ribavirin was used in the treatment of hepatitis C. However the types of medicines used in hepatitis C treatments have undergone radical changes. A range of new treatments are available now and more are in development or undergoing approval. These provide higher cure rates, shorter treatment times, and fewer side effects.

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Should I do treatment for hepatitis C, or should I wait?

It is important to regularly check the extent of any liver damage that hepatitis C (in combination with any past or recent alcohol use, other viruses, and lifestyle factors) may have caused. This will be a consideration when making a decision about whether or not you should undertake treatment or wait. It is always a good idea to speak with your doctor, liver specialist, treatment nurses, and family members or friends. If your choice is to go ahead with treatment, start at a time that fits in best with your lifestyle and plans. Hepatitis ACT can provide support and additional information to assist you.

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I am living with hepatitis B or hepatitis C, what can I do to help reduce the risk of serious complications?

If you are living with chronic hepatitis B or C, the most important thing you can do for your own health is to have regular liver health check-ups with your doctor and liver specialist. Making lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise, and cutting back or stopping drinking and smoking, can reduce the impact hepatitis B or C will have on your liver and your quality of life.

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My relative or friend is living with hepatitis B or hepatitis C, what can I do to help?

The most important thing you can do is to be supportive. Find out as much as you can about hepatitis B or C and remember that viral hepatitis is a heavily stigmatised condition. If your relationship allows, you might encourage the person to consider relevant lifestyle modifications to help reduce the risks of liver disease. Very importantly, do not share information about your relative or friend’s condition with other people unless you have permission to do so. Hepatitis ACT can provide support and additional information to assist you.

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Should I tell people I have chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C?

Telling somebody that you have hepatitis B or C can be overwhelming and the decision to disclose in most circumstances is up to you. Legally there are only four situations in which a person must disclose:

  1. A health worker who performs exposure-prone procedures is required to notify their employer.
  2. A member of the Australian Defence Force, or a person wanting to join, is required to declare health status with respect to disease, illness or injury.
  3. A person wanting to donate blood must disclose.
  4. Some insurance policies require the disclosure of any infections, disabilities or illnesses that might influence the insurance company’s decision to ensure.

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I might have been exposed to hepatitis C. How soon after exposure should I be tested?

If you think you have been in contact with hepatitis C an antibody test can be undertaken 12 weeks after exposure. Testing for antibodies before the 12 week period can provide unreliable results. If the results show the presence of hepatitis C antibodies, a second test (PCR test) is required to check if the person has the virus as well as the antibodies. Around 25% of people who are exposed to hepatitis C manage to resolve (or ‘clear’) the infection without treatment.

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Where can I get tested for hepatitis B and hepatitis C?

Your local doctor is able to arrange the necessary blood tests. Other options in the ACT include:

  • Alcohol and Drug Service (Canberra Hospital) for clients of the Opioid Treatment Service
  • Canberra Sexual Health Clinic (Canberra Hospital)
  • Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT, and
  • Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service.

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My tests show I have hepatitis C antibodies. Does that mean I have hep C?

People will have hepatitis C antibodies if they:

  • are chronically infected (i.e. living with hepatitis C)
  • have been infected but cleared the virus without treatment, or
  • have cleared the virus through antiviral treatment.

The presence of hepatitis C antibodies does not necessarily mean a person has hepatitis C. When a person is exposed to the hepatitis C virus, their immune system develops antibodies. This can take up to three months (a ‘window period’) following exposure. The presence of antibodies indicates that the person has been infected with the virus at some time. A second test (called a PCR test) is required to check if the person remains infected. Around 25% of people who are exposed to hepatitis C manage to resolve (or ‘clear’) the infection without treatment.

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Where can I get vaccinated for hepatitis B and hepatitis A?

Speak to your doctor about vaccinations. Other options in the ACT include:

  • Alcohol and Drug Service (Canberra Hospital)
  • Canberra Sexual Health Clinic (Canberra Hospital)
  • Sexual Health and Family Planning ACT, and
  • Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service.

Click here for more information about other services

I have hepatitis C. Am I a risk to my kids?

Whilst there are transmission risk factors associated with household living (e.g. razors, toothbrushes), the chance of infecting your child with hepatitis C is minimal. Although there are cases of HCV transmission from an infected mother to her newborn infant, these are uncommon. Less than 6% of pregnant mothers with hepatitis C will pass it on to the infant.

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