- It can take up to 3 months for HCV to be detectable in your body – which is why frequent testing is important. There are two important tests you need to take to determine if you have HCV:
- 1. The Anti-Body Test: If you have HCV antibodies it means that you have been infected with HCV in the past, but it does not mean that you currently have HCV. About 20% of people can fight off the virus themselves, without any treatment. To find out if you currently have HCV you will need to have a different blood test.
- 2. The HCV RNA-PCR Test (HCV Viral Load Test) A blood sample is taken and sent to the lab – results can take from 7 – 10 days. This test will tell you if you have Hepatitis C, and how much of the virus is in your body. This test will also tell you which genotype* of HCV you have. These tests determine if you have HCV, but not the extent of damage to your liver. Usually a FibroScan is how doctors see the level of damage in the liver (fibrosis).
- HCV testing and treatment are free.
- Up to age 14 must have parental consent; if you are 14 or older you can have a test without parental/guardian consent.
- You can get tested at your family doctor, or at any of the testing sites listed here.
- In Saskatoon there are two places to go for HCV treatment – the Positive Living Program at RUH, or the Saskatoon Infectious Disease Care Network – Dr. Kris Stewart, (306) 952-4088.
- Currently, medication is usually taken from 8-12 weeks, depending on genotype* of Hepatitis C.
- New medications are being introduced yearly, lessening side effects and making treatment time shorter. These newer medications have success rates of up to 98%.
- Support groups are available in Saskatoon. See our Support Groups page for details.
- If the virus has been “cleared”, as shown by no evidence of the virus in blood samples taken during and 6 months after treatment, then treatment is considered successful.
* There are 6 major genotypes of Hepatitis C, numbered from 1 – 6. It is possible to be infected with multiple genotypes of HCV. It is also possible to become re-infected after clearing the virus (successful treatment does not provide immunity). Shared drug equipment, especially needles, is the most common way people can become co-infected, or re-infected.
For more FAQs about HCV, including testing: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/hepc/faq-eng.php
For more information see the CATIE website here.