for Veterans and the Public
Hepatitis A, B, and C
Your liver is an organ that processes almost everything you put into your body, including medications. Viruses can infect and irritate the liver causing damage, scarring, and possibly liver failure. The three most common viruses that can infect the liver are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
- Hepatitis A virus (HAV): this virus is transmitted through contaminated food, water, or through the feces of someone who is infected. When you are diagnosed with HIV, your providers will check your blood to see whether you have protection from HAV either from previous infection or previous vaccination. If you have protection, great! There is nothing more to do. But if you do not, you may be offered the vaccine to prevent future infection.
- Hepatitis B virus (HBV): this virus is easily spread through contaminated blood and body fluids. When you are diagnosed with HIV, your providers will check your blood to see if you have either active infection, protection from infection, or no protection from HBV. If you have protection from infection, great! There is nothing else to do. If you do not have protection, you will be offered the HBV vaccine to protect from future infection. If HBV is found in your bloodstream (i.e. active infection), you will be offered medication that can kill both HBV and HIV.
- Hepatitis C virus (HCV): This virus is transmitted through contaminated blood. When you are diagnosed with HIV, your providers will check your blood to see if you have HCV. If so, you will be offered medication to cure your HCV. There is always risk of reinfection if re-exposed to the virus. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for protection against HCV. For more information on hepatitis C, see HIV and HCV coinfection.