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Can I Take Hep C Medications Along With My HIV Medications?

"Can I take Hep C medication along with my HIV medication?" The question is becoming increasingly popular, with so many people acquiring an HIV/Hep C virus (HCV) coinfection around the globe. The answer here is yes: You can take your Hep C medication along with your HIV medication with little chance of severe side effects. The reduction in side effects is made possible because of a combined HIV and Hep C medical regime.  


A HIV/HCV coinfection is not rare. People with either of the diseases are very likely to develop the other as well. In the United States, 5% of chronic Hepatitis C patients have coinfection with HIV. Similarly, about 30% of individuals with HIV are living with a concurrent HCV infection. The reason behind this increased prevalence of coinfection lies in the biochemistry of their causative agents and the shared risk factors for both viruses. 


A COMBINED TREATMENT MODALITY FOR HIV/HCV COINFECTION

HIV/HCV coinfection, however debilitating, is not untreatable. Modern medical protocols allow you to take Hep C medication with your HIV medication without serious side effects. These treatment modalities use the newer Direct Acting Antivirals (DAAs) for HCV infection and antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV infection. 


THE TREATMENT PROTOCOL FOR THIS TREATMENT IS AS FOLLOWS

  • ART is helpful in all patients with coinfection because it improves the patient's immune system. This leads to beneficial effects on patient's health and might even slow down the progression of liver damage due to Hepatitis C. This is why ART is started in all patients of HIV/HCV coinfection
  • ART started for these patients has the same drugs as for patients with HIV infection alone.
  • After careful assessment of the liver damage, DAA can then be given to the patient while continuing ART. A thorough examination of all possible drug-to-drug interactions is carried out beforehand.


POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF THE TREATMENT?

The liver metabolizes the majority of drugs that go inside your body. Therefore, your liver is at risk of developing toxicity in response to increased drug loads. Theoretically, this is possible with Hep C and HIV treatment together because the liver is already damaged due to hepatitis. 


However, research suggests that medical treatment for HIV/HCV coinfection carries more benefits than risks. Antiretroviral therapy used in the treatment of such patients improves their immune system. This can slow down liver disease progression since the immune system starts resisting the Hepatitis C virus. Thus the combined treatment modality carries far more benefits than the individual treatment for both these diseases.


Who is at risk for developing HCV/HIV coinfection?

  • Risks for coinfection of HCV and HIV include:
  • Sharing needles for injecting drugs.
  • Unsafe blood transfusions
  • Having multiple sex partners
  • Having unprotected intercourse 
  • Men having sex with men (MSM)


Other than these risk factors, age also plays a vital role. Increased age increased the risk of acquiring both HIV and HCV infections due to decreased immunity. A high rate of coinfection is also observed in people diagnosed with HIV at a younger age. This is because the disease renders them susceptible to the development of other infections, such as Hepatitis C.


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