Worldwide, approximately 71 million people are living with chronic hepatitis C.1 Also known as the hepatitis C virus (HCV), it can cause both acute and chronic infections, and about 30 percent of people with HCV will clear the virus on their own without treatment within 6 months of infection.1 The rest of those with HCV infection will develop a chronic HCV infection (or infection that lasts more than 6 months).1 There are treatments for HCV, with the goal being an undetectable viral load (the amount of virus in the body). When the virus is considered “undetectable,” a person is said to be “cured”.
Goals of HCV treatment
If it is determined that you have chronic HCV, a range of tests may be done to measure the viral load (how much of the virus is in your body) and the genotype of the virus, which determines treatment options.2. The goal of treatment for HCV is to have no detectable amounts of the virus in your body at least 12 weeks after finishing treatment.2
Treatments for HCV
Treatment for HCV is determined by several things, including:
Direct acting anti-viral medications are the gold standard for treating hepatitis C. Which drugs you take can vary, depending on the individual risk factors and details of your infection, and treatment regimens can range from 6-24 weeks, or even longer.3 Talk with your doctor to determine your medication options, potential side effects and risks, and how you will be monitored throughout the treatment.
Is there a vaccine for HCV?
While there are vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, there is not a vaccine right now for hepatitis C. If you have HCV, your doctor may recommend that you get the vaccines for hepatitis A and B if you haven’t already, since they can also cause liver damage and complications.
When is HCV considered cured?
In order to see whether HCV treatment worked, your doctor will check the levels of the virus in your bloodstream. The main goal of treatment is sustained virologic response, or SVR. SVR occurs when there is no detectable level of HCV measured through a blood test three months after treatment is completed.3 When someone has an SVR, they are considered cured. An SVR also decreases the risk of long-term complications from HCV, along with taking steps to have a healthy lifestyle.
It’s important to remember that even when you’re cured, it is possible to become reinfected with HCV if you’re exposed again. In order to lower your risk of reinfection, your doctor may suggest minimizing risky behaviors (such as injecting drugs). They may also recommend using condoms if you’re sexually active. Talk with your doctor about ways you can stay healthy and cured, and minimize your risk of reinfection. It’s important that you go for regular checkups to monitor for any long-term complications and risk of liver disease or cancer.
Hepatitis C. World Health Organization. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-c Published July 9, 2019. Accessed September 5, 2019.
Hepatitis C: Diagnosis & Treatment. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hepatitis-c/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354284 Published May 29, 2019. Accessed September 5, 2019.
Treating Hepatitis C. American Liver Foundation. https://liverfoundation.org/for-patients/about-the-liver/diseases-of-the-liver/hepatitis-c/treating-hepatitis-c/#what-are-my-options-for-treatment 2017. Accessed September 5, 2019.