Hepatitis C and HIV
The viruses that cause hepatitis C and HIV are both frequently spread through contaminated needles and other drug paraphernalia. Infection with hepatitis C is more serious in a person who is also infected with HIV. Certain interferon drugs, given alone or in combination with ribavirin, may be helpful for those who have hepatitis C and HIV infection. However, this will depend on several factors.
Hepatitis C infection is more serious in people with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). It leads to liver damage more quickly than it does in people who are not infected with HIV. Co-infection with hepatitis C may also affect the treatment of HIV infection. Therefore, it's important for people with HIV to know whether they are also infected with hepatitis C and, if they are not, to take steps to prevent infection.
It is not yet known whether co-infection with hepatitis C makes HIV progress faster into full-blown AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).
Many people with hepatitis C do not have any symptoms of the disease. So your doctor or other healthcare provider will have to test your blood to check for the virus. If you test positive for hepatitis C, he or she may also do a liver biopsy to determine the amount of damage to your liver. During a liver biopsy, a tiny piece of your liver is removed through a needle. The tiny sample (or specimen) is then checked for inflammation and other types of liver damage.
Injecting drugs is one of the main ways people become infected with HIV. It is also the main way of becoming infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). In fact, 50 percent to 90 percent of HIV-infected injection drug users are also infected with hepatitis C.
There are other ways of becoming infected with hepatitis C. People with hemophilia who received clotting factor concentrates before 1987 commonly have HCV infection. Becoming infected through sexual contact is possible, but the risk is much lower than the risk of contracting HIV. Mothers can pass the hepatitis C virus to their newborn babies, but again, this risk is less than that for HIV.