Co-infection with HIV
Being co-infected means living with two viruses at once, which can become tricky! The relationship between HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) is a complicated one. Researchers are just beginning to understand how co-infection with these two viruses affects the body and treating them. Many people with AIDS are also infected with the Hepatitis C virus (about 33%) because some behaviors that transmit AIDS also transmit Hepatitis C (such as sharing intravenous drug needles or receiving blood transfusions, organ transplants, or hemophilia treatment before tests screened the nation's blood supply). When people living with AIDS are infected with both HIV and Hepatitis C, it is called an HIV/HCV co-infection. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) destroys the immune system that helps the body fight illness and infection. HIV infects the main immune cells in the body (CD4 or Tcells), the main immune cells in the body, and causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
In general, if infected with Hepatitis C the disease usually develops very slowly. People may live with Hepatitis C for 10 to 30 years before they start to feel sick and show symptoms. In HIV co-infected people, Hepatitis C disease may develop much quicker. The symptoms are more severe, leading to serious liver disease. Studies have shown that Hepatitis C multiplies to up to 8 times faster in people co-infected with HIV.
Treating co-infection with HIV
All of the medications available for treating HIV alone are metabolized in some way by the liver. This makes it complicated to treat HIV while infected with Hepatitis C also. On the other hand, because HIV affects the immune system, it might impair a patient's immune response to Hepatitis C possibly slowing or accelerating liver disease due to Hepatitis C. Talk with your health care provider about what would be appropriate treatment for you if you are co-infected with HIV and Hepatitis C. If you need a referral to a liver specialist or have other questions about HIV/HCV co-infection, contact The Network at 1-800-734-7104 or email them at
For other information about treatment and trials, call the following hotlines and information services: AIDS Treatment Information Service (ATIS): 1-800-448-0440, Project Inform: 1-800-822-7422, or Aids Clinical Trials Information Service: 1-800-TRIALS-A.