Hepatitis Awareness Month: Recognizing HIV and Hepatitis C Virus Coinfection

Content From: Laura Cheever, MD, ScM, Associate Administrator for the HIV/AIDS Bureau, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesPublished: May 19, 20233 min read



During the month of May, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) recognizes Hepatitis Awareness Month and Hepatitis Testing Day on May 19. It is a time to raise awareness about the impact of viral hepatitis among people with HIV and encourage those with HIV to get tested for hepatitis C virus (HCV).

HIV and viral hepatitis are syndemic conditions, or a set of linked health conditions, that adversely interact with each other and contribute to a greater impact of disease. In the United States, we are working to address this through both the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (PDF, 1.76MB) and the Viral Hepatitis National Strategic Plan (PDF, 1.68MB).

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HCV is one of the primary causes of chronic liver disease in the U.S., and approximately 21 percent of people with HIV also have HCV.

Like HIV, HCV can spread:

  • Through direct contact with a person with HCV’s blood (most commonly through injection drug use): According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), nearly 75 percent of people with HIV who report a history of injection drug use also have diagnosed HCV.
  • Perinatally: HCV may be transmitted via mother to child. Pregnant people can pass these infections to their infants. HIV-HCV coinfection increases the risk of passing on HCV to the baby.
  • Sexually: Although sexual contact is an uncommon means of transmission, men who have sex with men with HIV are at particularly high risk of contracting HCV sexually.

Given the risk of HIV/HCV coinfection, it is important for people with HIV to understand the risk, take steps to prevent infection, and know their status. Treatment is available that can cure HCV and reduce the chance of developing liver damage, liver cancer, or the risk of death.

People with HIV should be tested for HCV when they are first diagnosed with HIV and begin treatment. People with HIV who have ongoing risk factors for getting HCV should be tested annually.

HRSA’s Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program works to improve coordination of linkage to and retention in HCV and treatment for people living with both HIV and HCV. We recognize how important it is for health care providers to understand HCV and to use their trusted relationship with patients to encourage them to get tested for HCV, and have developed initiatives and resources to help health care providers treat people who have or are at risk for HIV/HCV coinfection:

This Hepatitis Awareness Month and Hepatitis Testing Day, learn and share the syndemic approach to HCV and HIV and encourage HCV testing to your colleagues and communities. 

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