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HIV-Positive Men: Has Your Doctor Tested for Hepatitis C Lately?

For people who are HIV positive and are actively seeking treatment, it would seem as if nothing could slip by you and your doctor. With the regular blood work, the long and confusing lab reports and the frequent chats with your doctor about how things are going with you and your health, it would seem that all of your bases are covered. But unfortunately, if you forget to ask for important ancillary tests such as the test for Hepatitis C, your doctor may have forgotten, too.


According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost 20 percent of people who are in treatment for HIV have never been tested for the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). Among the HIV positive people who were tested for HCV, 21 percent tested positive. CDC investigators used 2009 data from the Medical Monitoring Project (MMP) to analyze the HCV testing prevalence among HIV positive people. Several factors were attributed to a higher risk of HCV: older age, heterosexual orientation, long-term HIV positive status, poverty and injection drug use.


Even though there has been a noted rise in HCV infection among homosexual men, the CDC found a lower percentage of homosexual men who tested positive for HCV, in comparison to heterosexual men and women.


And while this may sound like bad news for those who are living with HIV, it is only one half of the equation.  


Interest in the prevalence of HCV in HIV positive people peaked after the arrival of an HCV cure. Researchers discovered that the highly effective direct acting antivirals (DAAs), the cure for HCV, is just as effective at curing the disease in HIV positive people as it is in those who are HIV negative.


There are currently two daily-pill medications for curing HCV: Gilead Science’s Sovaldi and Janssen’s Olysio. In the COSMOS 12-week research trial, researchers found that 94 percent of people who took a combination of Sovaldi and Olysio were cured after the 12-week period. Currently, the drugs must be taken individually, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to approve a combination therapy by January, 2015. 


For people living with HIV, treatment for the virus can be as easy as one pill a day, and HCV can now be cured. In order to manage your health, however, a patient must be engaged in managing their treatment. That includes staying in medical care and asking your doctor for the tests that you need, including a test for HCV.