Liver Hepatitis C Related Conditions Hiv

The hepatitis C virus is spread via contact with infected blood. Similarly, infected blood is the mode of transmission for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This increases the rate of co-infection with HIV and hepatitis C. Liver damage and other complications of hepatitis C infection can progress faster in people who are also infected with HIV.

What is HIV?

HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. Viruses require a living host to survive and reproduce. A person infected with the HIV virus may experience flu-like symptoms, but many people have no symptoms for several years.

After a number of years, infected individuals can develop acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), a condition that severely compromises the immune system. AIDS leaves the body unable to fight off infections and affected individuals are highly susceptible to cancers and diseases. Medications, such as antiretroviral drugs, may slow the damage to the immune system, although a cure for HIV/AIDS has yet to be found.

HIV and Hepatitis C Transmission

HIV and hepatitis C are both transmitted via exposure to infected blood. Intravenous (IV) drug use is a common route of transmission for both viruses, as sharing needles exposes users to potentially contaminated blood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007) reports that 50 to 90 percent of IV drug users infected with the HIV virus are also infected with hepatitis C.

Testing for Hepatitis C

If you’re HIV-positive, particularly if you are or have been an IV drug user, talk to your doctor about being tested for hepatitis C. If you’re infected with hepatitis C, you may not notice any symptoms. Your doctor can conduct a series of tests, including blood tests, to determine the presence of hepatitis C. If you’re infected, a liver biopsy can determine the presence and extent of liver damage.

Effects of Co-Infection on Treatment and Prognosis

Co-infection with HIV and hepatitis C can change the course of both diseases. Individuals with HIV experience serious liver damage from hepatitis C sooner than those with hepatitis C alone. This accelerated liver damage increases the risk for complications of hepatitis C, including cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer.

In individuals with more advanced HIV infections, the hepatitis C virus is less likely to respond to treatment. If you’re infected with both HIV and hepatitis C, your doctor will determine the best course of treatment, taking into account the severity of both infections, as well as any potential drug interactions between medications for HIV and hepatitis C.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Basic information about HIV and AIDS. Retrieved October 10, 2010, from http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/topics/basic/index.htm.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2007). Coinfection with HIV and the hepatitis c virus. Retrieved October 10, 2010, from http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/coinfection.htm.

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. (2006). Chronic hepatitis c: Current disease management. Retrieved October 10, 2010, from http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/chronichepc/.