Hep C can damage your liver, cause liver cancer and even death. Ask your doctor for the test and the cure. If you have been tested and still engage in behavior that puts you at risk you should ask and act again.
The CDC recommends that all adults age 18 and older get tested for Hep C at least once in their lifetimes. A Hepatitis C test consists of a blood test called an HCV antibody test to find out whether someone has ever been infected with the Hepatitis C virus. The test works by searching for antibodies to the Hepatitis C virus, which are released into the bloodstream when someone becomes infected. Sometimes test results can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to come back. However, some facilities offer rapid anti-HCV tests and the results of these tests are available in 20 to 30 minutes.
Once you have been infected, you will always have antibodies in your blood. This is true whether you have been cured or still have the virus. As a result, a test can be “reactive” or “positive,” which means you have been infected with the virus at some point in time. A reactive or positive antibody test does not necessarily mean that you currently have Hepatitis C, so a follow-up test is needed. A “non-reactive” test means that you are not actively infected with the Hepatitis C virus.
If your antibody test is reactive or positive, you will need a follow-up test to see if you currently have the virus. This test is called a nucleic acid test (NAT) for HCV RNA, also known as the PCR test. If the HCV RNA Test (or PCR test) is negative, it means that you were infected with the Hepatitis C virus at some point in your life, but you were cured or you cleared the virus naturally. If the test is positive, you currently have the virus in your blood and are infectious, meaning you can spread the virus to others.
If you have a reactive antibody test and a positive NAT for HCV RNA, you need to talk to a doctor about treatment. Treatments are available that can cure most people in 8–12 weeks when taken as prescribed.