Haemophilia and other conditions
Prior to the availability of virus-inactivated clotting factors manufactured from donated blood in the mid-1980s, and more recently, recombinant clotting factor produced by genetic engineering, people with haemophilia were at risk of contracting hepatitis C and HIV through contaminated blood products.As a result, data from the Australian Bleeding Disorder Registry (ABDR) suggests that co-infection with hepatitis C is present in over 50% of Australians with haemophilia A and over 45% with haemophilia B. Data also indicates that all the people with haemophilia and HIV are also co-infected with hepatitis C.
Hepatitis C is a virus carried in the blood that can affect the liver. The liver is responsible for cleaning and purifying the blood supply. It also stores sugars, fats, vitamins and minerals, and makes and breaks down some chemical substances.
Of those infected with hepatitis C, around 20% may clear the hepatitis C virus from their blood naturally. The other 80% may go on to develop chronic hepatitis C, which occurs when infection with hepatitis C lasts longer than six months.
Chronic hepatitis C can cause liver damage in some people. After 20 years without treatment, around 20% of those with chronic hepatitis C may develop more serious liver disease, known as cirrhosis. Cirrhosis causes the liver to shrink, harden and scar, meaning that it can no longer work properly.
The good news is that effective treatments are available that can reduce the amount of virus in the blood and often clear it altogether.Regular checks on your health, particularly your liver health, when you have hepatitis C are essential. These can assist in maintaining or improving your health by helping you make decisions about treatments and lifestyle changes.
HIV and hepatitis C co-infection
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a viral condition that progressively destroys a type of white blood cell known as a lymphocyte. This reduces the immune system’s ability to protect the body against infection.
Over the last ten years new treatments have greatly improved the health of many people living with HIV. And because people with HIV are now living longer and longer, it has become more important to manage the hepatitis C of people who are co-infected with HIV to prevent long-term liver damage. This is particularly the case as liver damage may occur more rapidly in people who are co-infected with HIV and can lead to serious liver problems, such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. If a person has liver damage, they may also find it harder to tolerate their HIV drugs.
If you are co-infected with HIV and hepatitis C, it is vital that you work with your HIV specialist to determine a treatment approach that best suits your individual needs.