Hepatitis C

Hepatitis C a virus that can infect and damage the liver.

How is it passed on?

Hepatitis C is usually transmitted through blood to blood contact, such as:

  • Sharing needles when injecting drugs and through sharing other drug equipment.
  • Use of unsterilized equipment when getting a tattoo/body piercing.
  • Sharing razors or toothbrushes that are contaminated with infected blood.

It isn't commonly transmitted through vaginal sex, but it can be transmitted through certain types of sex which are more at risk of bleeding. People can be more at risk of acquiring Hepatits C if:

  • They are living with HIV.
  • They have chemsex, especially if injecting drugs.
  • They take part in group sex without using condoms.
  • They are into fisting or sharing sex toys, without using gloves or condoms.


During the early stage of infection there may not be any symptoms.

If symptoms do develop at this stage it is usually within the first six months after infection and they can be easily mistaken for another condition.

Symptoms can include:

  • Flu-like symptoms, such as muscle aches and loss of appetite, high temperature
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Depression
  • One in five people with Hepatitis C will experience yellowing of the eyes and skin, also known as jaundice
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Sickness and diarrhoea

Long term effects

Some people can clear the virus at the early stage of infection. However, four out of five people will not be able to fight off the infection. This leads to a long term infection called chronic Hepatitis.

Hepatitis C can lead to problems with your liver, including scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), often years after catching the infection.


Hepatitis C can be treated with antiviral medicines designed to stop the virus from multiplying inside the body and to prevent liver damage. The sooner treatment begins after exposure to the Hepatitis C virus, the more likely it is to succeed.

If the virus is cleared with treatment, you are not immune to future infections of Hepatitis C.

Telling your partner

If you are diagnosed with Hepatitis C, you should tell anyone who you may have had blood to blood contact with, or unprotected sex with, since you became infected so they can get tested. In some cases this may be hard to work out, so it is best to discuss the risk to others with your doctor.

How to avoid Hepatitis C:

  • Never share any drug-injecting equipment with other people (such as needles, syringes, spoons and filters).
  • Don’t get tattoos or piercings from unlicensed places.
  • Don't share razors, toothbrushes or towels that might be contaminated with blood.
  • Use a condom, especially with a new partner, for vaginal, anal and oral sex.
  • Avoid group sex that doesnt involve condoms for penetrative sex.


There is no vaccination for Hepatitis C.


Where can I get tested for Hepatitis C?

You should go to a sexual health clinic if you have unusual symptoms that persist for more than a few days, or if you are worried about any tupes of sex which could have put you at risk of Hepatitis C. You can also get tested for Hepatitis C at your GP or a drug treatment service. The clinician will take a simple blood test.

How long after infection does Hepatitis C show up in tests?

Test results are most accurate six to ten weeks after exposure. However, tests for Hepatitis C often can't distinguish between recent and previous infection.

What is antiviral medication?

Antiviral medication usually acts to prevent a virus from multiplying.

Will my partner be able to tell if I have Hepatitis C?

They may be able to tell if you have symptoms of infection, but many people don't have symptoms, meaning their partners wont be able to tell. However, you should tell your partner if you have Hepatitis C as they will need testing and may need treatment.

Does Hepatitis C affect fertility?

No, Hepatitis C doesn't affect fertility.