May is Hepatitis Awareness Month and May 19 is Hepatitis Testing Day. Doctors recommend testing adults ages 18 through 79 for hep C. If you haven’t been tested, talk to your provider the next time you check in and ask if the test is right for you.
Your provider can put in orders for testing so that the next time you’re on a VA campus you can stop by the lab for the test.
It’s also important to know about the prevention for viral hepatitis, which includes hepatitis A, B and C. You can prevent infection by:
- Getting vaccinated. Vaccination is important for those at-risk including people with chronic liver disease, people who inject drugs and people experiencing homelessness. Learn about all the risk factors on hepatitis.va.gov.
- Practicing safe injection drug use. Making sure that you don’t share injection equipment is very important. Talk to your provider about sterile syringe programs and safe injection practices, and visit https://www.cdc.gov/ssp/.
- Practicing safer sex. Hep B can spread via sex. Hep C can also be spread by sexual contact, but the risk of this is low. Ask your provider about a prescription for condoms if you need them. People at risk for sexually transmitted infections can also talk to their provider about Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), which can prevent HIV. Learn about PrEP at https://www.hiv.va.gov/products/prep-patient-factsheets.asp
View our handout to learn more about prevention: https://www.hepatitis.va.gov/products/abcs.asp
Elizabeth Maguire, MSW, is the communications lead for the HIV, Hepatitis and Related Conditions programs.