Co-Infection Info

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C (HCV) are blood-borne viruses, which mean that they can both be transmitted by blood-to-blood contact. So, if you have either HIV or HCV you are at risk for having the other. In Canada, approximately 10, 000 people are HIV-HCV co-infected.

HIV weakens the immune system, making it easier for you to get sick. Patients who have HIV often get sick from infections that would usually be fought off by a healthy immune system. These are called opportunistic infections.

In patients who have HIV, HCV progresses more quickly and the chance of developing liver disease is higher. This is partly due to the effects that HIV has on the immune system. For this reason, HCV has been called an opportunistic infection.
There are treatment options for both HIV and HCV. The treatment that is available for HCV can potentially clear the virus from the body, and must be taken for 6 months to 1 year. It is possible to be re-infected even if you successfully clear the virus. There is also treatment available to control HIV, but once it is started this treatment is life-long and it is not possible to clear HIV entirely from the body.

Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is an effective treatment strategy against HIV that involves taking a combination of at least 3 antiretroviral medications. Since it was introduced in the mid-1990′s, it has greatly reduced the incidence of opportunistic infections and AIDS among those infected with HIV. Since HCV is considered to be an opportunistic infection, it is expected that HCV related liver disease should improve with the initiation HAART. However, this has not been clearly demonstrated.