Questions about Hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV

If you already know you are living with HIV or HCV and need help finding HIV or HCV treatment or support services, you can talk to a Points West team member or contact the clinic at 303-239-7078 to make an appointment.

Question: 

What are HIV and HCV?

Answer:

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus transmitted through blood and bodily fluids, including semen, vaginal fluid, anal fluid, breastmilk and blood. Hepatitis C (HCV) is also a virus that is transmitted only via blood to blood contact. Transmission for both generally happens through sexual contact to injection drug use. People who use drugs face higher rates of HIV and HCV than people who do not use drugs. Both viruses are easily treatable with medications. Many people live with both HIV and HCV, and they can be treated together. 

HIV is a manageable, lifelong condition. With proper medications, the amount of virus in the body can become so low that the virus cannot be transmitted. 

HCV is curable and treatment is easier now than ever before. One in four people clear the virus with no treatment for all.

Getting tested and knowing your status is a great way to take care of your health. Testing for HIV and HCV is available at Points West for no cost. It is free, safe, quick and confidential. Taking approximately 30 minutes including paperwork, each test requires only a drop of blood. Your tester will likely be a familiar Points West face or one of our harm reduction trained nurses. 

Question: 

Can HIV and HCV be prevented?

Answer:

Yes. Prevention tools can include sterile syringes and supplies, trying different methods os use to avoid blood contact, avoiding sexual activity that involves fluid exchange, using personal lubricant to reduce micro tears in tissues, as well as barriers like condoms, internal condoms or dental dams. Harm reduction tools like those offered at Points West can help reduce transmission of both HIV and HCV. Syringe service programs offer a place where people who use drugs can access new supplies, as well as free and confidential HIV and HCV testing. 

More on HIV

  •  HIV is acquired through blood, as well as semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk

  • Injecting drugs and sexual activity are the primary way people in the U.S. acquire HIV

  • HIV is easily treatable and people living with HIV can live long, healthy lives

  • When HIV is undetectable, it cannot be transmitted. Medications can reduce the amount of virus in someone's blood so much that it cannot be detected. 

  • Confidential testing is available at Points West at no cost. It is a very quick test requiring only one drop of blood, with results in about 30 minutes. 

  • HIV prevention tools can include: 

    • Using sterile syringes and other supplies like those at Points West ​

    • Trying different drug routes like snorting or smoking 

    • Avoiding sexual activity that involves fluid exchange

    • Using personal lubricant to help reduce micro tears in tissue. 

      • Water based lubricant is generally allergy-free and safe for anybody

      • Silicone lubricant is often favored by individuals who practice anal sex because it lasts longer and doesn't dry out. 

    • Using barriers that are appropriate for the sex you have, like condoms, internal condoms, or dental dams. 

    • Get tested for HIV, HCV and other STIs on a regular basis. Other STIs can increase transmission of HIV and HCV because they often cause inflammation, leaving tissues more vulnerable to abrasions and microtears. This gives blood-borne pathogens an easy way in.  

More on HCV

  • Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver and can happen for a variety of reasons, including several viruses including HCV. Inflammation is swelling that happens when tissues of the body are injured or infected and it can damage organs

  • Transmitted by blood, the most common way that HCV is spread is through shared syringes and other drug equipment. Anal sex, "rough" sex and sex doing menstruation are also potential means for HCV transmission, though any item that comes into contact with blood, such as toothbrushes, razors or sex toys, are of potential concerns. 

  • HCV is transmitted from one person to another person. Contrary to common belief, you cannot give yourself HCV. 

  • For some people, HCV doesn't last long and is cleared naturally from the body. For the other 70%-85% of people living with HCV, it becomes a chronic infection. 

  • Chronic HCV can result in long-term health problems, even death. 

  • HCV is easier to treat than many people think. Treatment can start quickly, medications have few side effects and get rid of the virus completely. Plus, there is no sobriety requirement to take the medication. 

  • Get tested for HIV, HCV and other STIs on a regular basis. Other STIs can increase transmission of HIV and HCV because they often cause inflammation, leaving tissues more vulnerable to abrasions and microtears. This gives blood-borne pathogens an easy way in. 

  • HCV and HIV testing are available at Points West at no cost.

  • HCV prevention tools can include 

    • Using new syringes and injection equipment, including other works like cookers, cottons, and ties. HCV can live on surfaces for about two weeks, and in a syringe for months. ​

    • Checking into safer smoking tools for meth, crack or other drugs. Blood from cracked lips or glass can be a home for HCV. Consider a pipe cover, wiping the pipe mouthpiece with an alcohol swab, or avoiding any cracked, chipped, or broken glass. 

    • Trying safer snorting practices. Use a clean surface and razor, avoid sharing tooters, and avoid using dollar bills to make a tooter/straw. 

    • Avoid sharing hygiene items like razors and toothbrushes. 

    • Using personal lubricant to help reduce micro tears in tissue. 

    • Water based lubricant is generally allergy-free and safe for anybody

    • Silicone lubricant is often favored by individuals who practice anal sex because it lasts longer and doesn't dry out. 

    • Using barriers that are appropriate for the sex you have, like condoms, internal condoms, or dental dams.