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FAQ: If I get tested for hepatitis C and the result is positive, do I need any other tests?

for Veterans and the Public

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: If I get tested for hepatitis C and the result is positive, do I need any other tests to be sure?

When your doctor wants to test you for hepatitis C, the first test you will have is the hepatitis C antibody (anti-HCV). If this test is positive, it means you were infected with the hepatitis C virus at some point in the past. But this test alone is not enough. You will still need another test (called HCV RNA) to confirm if you still have the hepatitis C virus in your system. About 1 out of 5 people who get infected with hepatitis C will be able get the rid of the virus on their own, without treatment, very early after their infection. So some people will have a positive antibody test, but a negative HCV RNA (no virus in their bloodstream).

So, the second test that your doctor should request is called hepatitis C virus RNA or HCV RNA test. There are several different tests available to check the HCV RNA. What matters is that if the RNA test is positive, then you do have chronic hepatitis C virus infection. If the RNA test is negative, then you may need to have this test again to be sure. If these RNA tests are all negative, then you no longer have hepatitis C infection and do not have chronic hepatitis C.

If your hepatitis C antibody test is positive, be sure that you get tested for hepatitis C RNA to find out whether the infection has become chronic or whether it has cleared. If the infection has become chronic, there are treatments your doctor can prescribe to fight off the hepatitis C virus and keep your liver healthy.