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HIV/AIDS

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What can I do about coinfection with HIV and hepatitis C?

for Veterans and the Public

What can I do about coinfection?

There is no cure for HIV, but it often can be controlled. Hepatitis C can be treated successfully. This is like a cure, but in rare cases the virus still causes problems later.

Medications for both diseases keep getting better. Talk with your doctor about these treatments for HIV and hepatitis C. Educate yourself about your treatment choices as much as you can.

The best way to keep your coinfection from becoming a serious health problem is to keep yourself and your liver healthy by following these guidelines:

Healthy guidelines

Do not drink alcohol.

Alcohol weakens your immune system and damages your liver even when you are healthy. Drinking alcohol heavily when you have HIV and hepatitis C makes the damage much worse. Remember, there is no "safe" amount of alcohol you can drink when you have HIV and hepatitis C. It doesn't help to switch from "hard" liquor to beer, cider, or wine. If you need help to stop drinking alcohol, talk to your doctor.

Get vaccinated against other hepatitis viruses.

Having hepatitis C does not mean that you can't get other kinds of hepatitis. Talk to your doctor about getting vaccinations (or shots) to protect you from getting hepatitis A and B.

Avoid taking medicines, supplements or natural or herbal remedies that might cause more damage to your liver.

Even ordinary pain relievers in high doses can cause liver problems in some people. Check with your doctor before you take any natural or herbal remedy, supplement, prescription, or nonprescription medicine. And, make sure your doctor knows all the medicines you are taking for HIV and hepatitis C.

Don't use illegal drugs.

Remember that these drugs can make your illness worse. Talk with your doctor if you can't stop taking drugs.

Respect your body.

Eat healthy food, drink plenty of water, and get restful sleep. Try to exercise every day.

Don't have unsafe sex.

Practicing safer sex is the best way to keep other people from getting HIV. Hepatitis C isn't spread as easily as HIV by having sex. If you have sex, the best thing to do is practice safer sex all the time. To do so, always use a condom, dental dam, or other latex barrier and avoid "rough sex" or other activities that might cause bleeding.

Get support.

Ask your doctor where you can get support in your area. If you already get services from an AIDS organization, ask about support groups for people who have HIV and hepatitis C.

Stay informed.

HIV and hepatitis C are two of the most important medical issues today. Try to educate yourself about them. Ask your doctor if you need help making sense of anything you hear on the news or read in a newspaper.

Follow your doctor's advice.

Follow all instructions you get from your doctor. Try to keep all of your appointments. Call your doctor immediately if you have any problems.

HIV and hepatitis C coinfection resources

  • VA National Hepatitis C Web SiteLink will take you to our Viral Hepatitis internet site
    Information on hepatitis C for health care providers and patients from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • CDC Viral Hepatitis Web SiteLink will take you outside the VA website. VA is not responsible for the content of the linked site.
    Information on all types of viral hepatitis from the National Center for Infectious Diseases of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
  • HCV AdvocateLink will take you outside the VA website. VA is not responsible for the content of the linked site.
    Web site of the Hepatitis Support Project, whose goal is to offer support to those who are affected by hepatitis C and related coinfections. Information and education is provided, as well as access to support groups.
  • Hepatitis B FoundationLink will take you outside the VA website. VA is not responsible for the content of the linked site.
    A nonprofit organization dedicated to finding a cure and improving the quality of life of those affected by hepatitis B worldwide through research, education, and patient advocacy. Features information in English, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese.
  • HIV/AIDS/Hepatitis C Nightline:
    Hotline providing support for people with HIV or hepatitis C and their caregivers during the evening and nightime hours. 1-800-273-AIDS or 415-434-AIDS; 5 pm - 5 am Pacific time. Also offers Spanish-language hotline at: 1-800-303-SIDA or 415-989-5212.