New Hepatitis C Testing and Treatment Guidelines Announced
New Guidelines Recommend One-Time Hepatitis C Testing for All Adults and At-Risk Children, as well as Regular Testing for Higher-Risk Groups
Two leading doctor groups now recommend that all adults age 18 and older be tested at least once for hepatitis C. At risk children should also be tested under the new guidelines. This is a big change from earlier advice that only higher risk groups be tested.1,2
The new guidelines also update treatment options for people who test positive for hepatitis C.
The American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases and the Infectious Diseases Society of America announced the new guidelines on the website HCVguidelines.org.1,2 This website maintains the latest hepatitis C testing and treatment recommendations.
What do the new guidelines say about testing?
The new guidelines recommend:
- All adults 18 and older should be tested for Hep C once, even if they have no known risk for Hep C.
- All children under 18 should be tested if they have any chance of exposure to the virus.
- Anyone who faces regular exposure to hep C should be tested every six months.
- All people who use injection drugs should be tested once a year.
- All men with HIV who have unprotected sex with men should be tested once a year.1
Earlier guidelines recommended testing only for Baby Boomers and high-risk groups. However, studies have found that one-time testing of all adults helps find people who have no idea they have hep C. The same studies found that early treatment is more cost-effective than waiting until symptoms appear.1
Who is at risk of getting hepatitis C?
Things that put someone at greater risk of getting hepatitis C include:
- Injecting or snorting drugs
- Men who have sex with men
- Long-term dialysis
- Children born to women with hep C
- Sticks from needles or sharps, or blood-to-blood contact, with the blood of someone with Hep C
- People who have been in jail or prison
- Some people with transplanted organs
- People with HIV
- People about to start PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) for HIV
- People with certain types of liver disease1
What do the new guidelines say about hepatitis C treatment?
The new guidelines create a simpler process for doctors to follow when treating people with hepatitis C. It also updates the drugs and other therapies recommended for treatment.
Perhaps the biggest recommended change is that almost all people with hepatitis C should start taking drugs right away to fight the virus, as agreed by their doctor. Early treatment helps stop liver damage before it becomes severe and prevents other complications. Delaying treatment may make the drugs less effective.1
Expect your doctor to take these other steps to help you successfully beat hepatitis C:
- Educate you about the medication you will be taking, lifestyle changes that support liver health, and how to avoid transmitting the virus.
- Test you for liver damage and possibly liver cancer.
- Test you for hepatitis B and HIV.
- Recommend vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, and pneumonia.
- Ask you about any other drugs you are taking to reduce the chances of drug interactions.1
Your doctor should also follow up with you regularly by phone or during your office visit to make sure you take your drugs correctly and encourage good self-care. You will need extra blood work done while taking hepatitis drugs to monitor your liver health. If you have diabetes or are pregnant, you will be followed even more closely.
A person is considered cured of hepatitis C when they test free of the virus 12 weeks after drug treatment stops.1
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