If you have ever shared drug injecting equipment, or been involved in activities where there may have been blood to blood contact then you might have acquired, or be at risk of acquiring, the hep C virus.
In Australia the most common way for hep C to be passed on is when people share equipment that is used to inject drugs; whether you do so regularly, or only every now and then. This might mean recreational drugs or performance-enhancing drugs. You might have injected drugs once or on only a few occasions, many years ago; this could still have been enough to acquire hep C.
Hep C can also be passed on when the equipment used to tattoo or piercing is not sterile. This is more likely if the person doing the tattooing or piercing has not been trained in infection control procedures or they are working out of a backyard, garage, home or prison.
To find out if you have hep C you might need to have two different blood tests.
The first test is called the Hep C Antibody Test. This shows if you have ever been exposed to the hep C virus. A Hep C Antibody Test does not necessarily show if you are currently living with hep C because it only looks for the antibodies your body would produce once you have been exposed to the hep C virus.
The second test is called a PCR Detection Test (also called HCV RNA Test by some doctors). If your Hep C Antibody Test result is positive, you will need to have a second test to know if you are still living with hep C or if your body has already cleared the virus. A PCR Detection Test will show whether the hep C virus is in your blood. If your PCR Detection Test result is positive the hep C virus has been detected and you are living with hep C. If you have had the virus for more than six months this means you have chronic, or life-long, hep C. The good news is that there are now effective treatments that can cure chronic hep C.