As much as you might think you’re in tune with your physical health, you can’t afford to guess when it comes to your hepatitis C and HIV status.
Testing is crucial for these life-threatening viruses, which are almost impossible to detect without a test. Hepatitis C (HCV) causes inflammation of the liver that can lead to liver disease. HIV is an aggressive virus that infects the immune system and can lead to AIDS, says Christine L. Gordon, family nurse practitioner at HopeHealth in Aiken, an infectious diseases services provider.
“No one is exempt and ignorance is not bliss,” Gordon says. “HIV and HCV do not discriminate, and they know no boundaries. Early detection and early treatment is key for both diseases.”
While hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus and HIV is spread through bodily fluids via unprotected sexual behaviors, both also can be transmitted through injection drug use, unsafe injection practices and unsafe health care practices.
Don’t buy into the myth that these viruses are limited to a particular group of people. Doing so could blind you to your personal risks or need for screening. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends testing for everyone.
Here are 6 reasons you should get tested for hepatitis C and HIV:
1. You might not connect symptoms to the viruses.
Symptoms might not always be present, so receiving a screening is the only accurate way to diagnose the diseases. Those symptoms that do present themselves might be associated with more benign conditions or medications, and can be easily dismissed. Most likely, you wouldn’t assign these symptoms to the hepatitis C or HIV viruses.
2. It would prevent the spread to loved ones.
Hepatitis C, in particular, can go unnoticed for years, and although not as easily transmitted through sexual contact as HIV, not knowing your status could increase the likelihood of transmitting the virus unknowingly.
That’s also the case for screenings of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
3. You’re older.
Those born between 1945 and 1965 should be tested for hepatitis C, as baby boomers are likely to have been exposed to health and medical procedures before the screening of blood products and byproducts became prevalent, according to the CDC. Drug use and needle sharing would have upped the risk of exposure.
4. You’re pregnant.
Early HIV testing is important for all pregnant women so that they can begin treatment if they are HIV-positive. Doing so could lead to a decreased risk of transmitting HIV to the baby, according to HIV.gov.
5. You’ve never been screened.
Having a test at least once gives you a chance to have a conversation with a healthcare professional about risky behaviors, as well as steps to reduce risks.
6. It’s quick and free – or low cost.
Testing and results generally take 10 to 20 minutes. At HopeHealth in Aiken, hepatitis C and HIV screening is free and available Monday through Thursday. STD testing is available Tuesday and Thursday, with fees based on a sliding scale.
With its “In Care and Living Better” mantra, HopeHealth in Aiken has a team of individuals providing various patient and partner needs, including education and prevention, free testing and case management, Gordon says.
“HopeHealth is committed to being the essential component in helping individuals in Aiken and surrounding communities learn more about HIV, hepatitis C and other STDs, including their own statuses, and providing support if their statuses are indeed positive,” she says.
HopeHealth in Aiken, open since 2005, is one of four HopeHealth infectious disease treatment and prevention centers. The local center provides clinical care, case management and community support around hepatitis C, HIV, STDs and other infectious diseases solely.
For HIV, hepatitis C or STDs testing, visit HopeHealth in Aiken at 150 University Parkway, call 803-643-1977 or connect online at Hope-Health.org.