for Health Care Providers
Screening Veterans for Hepatitis C Infection
Hepatitis C is an important public health issue in the veteran community. Since 1998, the Veterans Health Administration has initiated and implemented a comprehensive National Hepatitis C Program to screen veterans for HCV.
The VHA has developed the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) Testing and Prevention Counseling Guidelines for VA Health Care Practitioners to offer guidelines to providers in a variety of VA settings who
- assist veterans in identifying their HCV status,
- provide education,
- and help facilitate behavior changes that will reduce their risk of acquiring or transmitting HCV.
The following is a list of criteria that the VA uses to screen veterans for HCV infection:
- Patient desires to be tested, or
- One or more of the following risks are identified:
- Prior or current intravenous drug use
- Blood transfusion or organ transplantation prior to 1992
- Vietnam-era Veteran, defined by dates of service from 1964 through 1975
- Health care, emergency medical care, emergency medical and public safety workers after a needlestick injury or mucosal exposure to HCV-positive blood
- Tattoos or body-piercings obtained in non-regulated settings
- Intranasal drug users who have shared paraphernalia
- Past sexual exposure to an HCV infected partner or 10 or more lifetime sexual partners
- Current sexual partners of HCV-infected persons
- Persons with HIV infection
- History of hemophilia and received clotting factor concentrates prior to 1987
- History of unexplained liver disease or abnormal liver function test
- Persons who have alcoholic hepatitis or a diagnosis (DSM-IV) of alcohol abuse or dependence.
- Born to a mother with HCV
Clinicians are urged to utilize the Hepatitis C Virus Antibody Screening Flow Chart if there is a presence or history of any of the above criteria. To learn more about diagnostic tests for HCV, please see the provider education section on Laboratory Tests and HCV.