Health conditions

Hepatitis C

The only way to know if you have hepatitis C is to get a blood test.

Hepatitis C can be treated and cured by taking medicines for 8 – 12 weeks.

If you are injecting drugs, to protect yourself from getting hepatitis C make sure you use always use your own new, sterile needles and syringes and sterile water. Also use your own spoon, swabs, filters, and tourniquets.

You can also get hepatitis C from getting tattoos and piercings so use new needles for body piercing or tattooing (remember - it is best to get tattoos and piercings done by professionals at a studio).

How do you get hepatitis C?

You get hepatitis C when the blood of somebody with hepatitis C gets into your blood.

Most people get hepatitis C through injecting drug use, particularly sharing needles, syringes and other injecting equipment with someone who has hepatitis C.

Another way that people get hepatitis C is through getting any body art (such as tattooing or piercing) with equipment that isn’t new (sterile or single use).

You can also get hepatitis C if you have:

  • shared shaving razors, toothbrushes and ceremonial tools
  • got into a fight or while playing sport there was blood that got into your bloodstream through a cut or wound
  • had sex without using a condom (or condom broke) and there was blood.

You may also be at increased risk of having hepatitis C if you have ever been in prison.

Babies can get hepatitis C from their mums during pregnancy and during childbirth.

How do I know if I have hepatitis C?

The only way to know for sure if you have hepatitis C is to get a blood test. You can ask for a test at any health clinic or doctor. You do not have to say why you think you could have hepatitis C to your health worker. They will have a private talk with you before the test to tell you what to expect.

A hepatitis C test is free if you have a Medicare card, so you will only need to pay for the appointment with your health worker, at some services this is free too.

Find a service (external site) where you can get a Hepatitis C blood test.

If you are worried about having bad veins, there are some places you can go that can test you for hepatitis C using blood collected by a finger prick. Finger prick tests will get your results back quickly. Visit Peer Based Harm Reduction WA (external site) or Hepatitis WA (external site) to find out more about getting finger prick tested for hepatitis C.

How is hepatitis C treated?

Very good medicines are available to cure hepatitis C. By swallowing one tablet every day for 2 to 3 months you can be cured of hepatitis C. These medicines should not make you feel sick. The medicine is cheap or even free.

Some people think you need to stop using or injecting drugs to be able to get treatment for hepatitis C but that’s not true. You can keep using if you choose to while on treatment.

It is possible to get hepatitis C after you have been cured if you are exposed to it again. So it is important to protect yourself from hepatitis C.

If you get hepatitis C again though, you can get treated again.

To get the medicine speak to your health worker or find a service (external site) that can help you.

How can you protect yourself from hepatitis C?

You can also protect yourself and others from hepatitis C if you:

  • only use your own toothbrush, dental floss and shaving razors
  • don’t let other people’s blood get into your blood – cover all cuts and sores
  • use condoms, dams and water-based lubricant every time you have sex.

There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

For people who inject drugs

If a person uses injecting equipment that someone with hepatitis C has used there is a high chance that they will get hepatitis C. This is because the needles, syringes, or other injecting equipment may have blood in them, even if you can’t see it. That blood can carry hepatitis C.

To stop yourself from getting hepatitis C use a freshie every time you inject drugs.

Never share needles and syringes, not even with friends or family. Also use your own spoon, swabs, filters, sterile water and tourniquets.

You can get freshies from needle and syringe programs (NSP) (external site). Use the map below to find the closest NSP to you. Most pharmacies sell fit packs, but there are lots of other places where you can get new needles and syringes for free.

People who inject drugs are also at risk of getting hepatitis B or HIV if they share injecting equipment.

Tattoos and body piercing

Getting a tattoo or body piercing from a needle or other equipment that someone else has used can give you hepatitis C.  Protect yourself from getting hepatitis C by making sure the person doing the tattoo or piercing uses only new (sterile) needles, and single-use razors and inks every time.

It is best to get tattoos and piercings done by professionals at tattoo and piercing studios. If you are getting your friends or family to give you tattoos or piercings at somewhere that is not a studio people may not have enough new equipment that has not been used on anyone else. This can lead to getting hepatitis C even if it is with friends or family.

Translated information about hepatitis C

Where to get help

Last reviewed: 04-06-2024
Public Health

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.