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SWAP Hepatitis C

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What is Hep C?:
Hepatitis C (Hep C) is a liver disease caused by the Hepatitis C virus.

Hep C is transmitted (passed from person to person) from blood to blood only. People can get Hepatitis C when blood carrying the virus gets into their bloodstream.
Here are some of the ways Hepatitis C can get inside the body:

  • Using drug equipment that has been used by someone else, such as needles, syringes, filters, cookers, acidifiers, alcohol swabs, tourniquets, water, pipes for smoking crack or crystal meth, and straws for snorting.
  • Re-using tools for activities that break the skin, such as tattooing, body piercing, acupuncture and electrolysis. In tattooing, reusing needles as well as ink and ink pots can spread Hepatitis C.
  • Sharing or borrowing personal items that might have blood on them, such as razors, nail clippers and toothbrushes.
  • Having unprotected sex where blood could be present. For example, during anal sex, rough sex, sex during a woman’s period or when one person has open sores.


  • Not just new needles, EVERYTHING new EVERY time.
  • New supplies for piercings every time.
  • Tattooing is safest in a professional studio with a sterilizer, sterile equipment and needles and new ink.  (It has to be sterilized with a special machine, an autoclave…not just hot water and bleach!)
  • Do not share razors, toothbrushes, and anything else that might get blood on it.
  • Use a condom or dental dam for sex every time.

Signs and Symptoms of Hep C:
Most people do not show any signs or symptoms until many years after getting Hepatitis C.  The only way to know for sure is to be tested

Hep C testing:
If you think you have come into contact with someone’s blood, even one time, you should consider being tested for Hep C.

There is no vaccine or other immunity against Hepatitis C, so the only way to prevent Hepatitis C is by avoiding the virus. Even people who get Hepatitis C and clear the virus can get it again.

Living with Hep C:

  • Drinking alcohol can harm your liver. Cutting back on drinking alcohol (or cutting it out completely!) can be the best thing you can do for your liver.
  • Smoking cigarettes can also hurt your liver.  Look for ways to cut back.
  • Take care of yourself—rest, eat healthy food, and try to get some exercise.  You'll feel better and so will your liver.

This information was provided in part by CATIE (Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange). For more information click here or here.


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