Hepatitis C guide

Hepatitis C Testing

How do I get tested for hepatitis C?

We make getting tested for hepatitis C simple. We offer the Hepatitis C Surface Antibody (Anti-HCV) blood test, also known as the HCV Ab Immunoassay. The test provides early detection of acute or chronic hepatitis C infections, typically within 6-8 weeks of exposure and sometimes sooner. Best of all, the test is easy and safe (no undressing or swabbing required!)...and it's a highly accurate and reliable test that's also used to screen blood donors for hepatitis C.

Note: According to the Viral Hepatitis Action Coalition, 75% of people with hepatitis C were born between 1945-1965. If you were born during this 20-year span and you haven't been tested for the virus, it's highly recommended that you do so.

What hepatitis C Test results mean

A positive hepatitis C Test result means that you may have an active hepatitis C infection...or, it's possible that you had an infection in the past, and that your body fought off the infection, which happens in up to 25% of cases.

A negative hepatitis C Test result means that the virus was not detected in your blood. But because hepatitis C may not yet be detectable, if you get tested too soon after possible exposure to hepatitis C infection, you'll want to get tested again three months after exposure to confirm that you're negative...repeat testing is critical to ensure the most accurate diagnosis.

If you test positive, we're here to help. You'll have the opportunity to consult with a doctor on the phone right away. We'll answer your questions, refer you to a specialist and help you determine the next steps based on your specific circumstances.

Note: As with HIV and hepatitis B, if you test positive for hepatitis C, you should not donate blood.

Understanding false-positive or false-negative test results

As with most medical tests, there's a slight chance (1-4%) that a positive test result indicates an infection when there isn't one (false-positive); or a test comes back negative, despite the presence of infection (false-negative). For example, a false-negative test result can happen if an infected person tests too early for an infection to be detected...that means it's possible to get a negative test result but still have an STD.

If you're concerned about the reliability of your test results for any reason (e.g., timing, or your sexual history, or your partner's sexual history), we recommend that you get re-tested three months after possible exposure to the virus to confirm your results...and to minimize the risk of being a carrier and potentially developing more serious symptoms down the road.

Learn more about "testing windows" — the recommended amount of time between potential exposure to an STD infection, and when screening is expected to identify the infection (or re-infection); for example, if you had unprotected sex last night and became infected with hepatitis C, the virus wouldn't necessarily show up right away...it can take up to three months to test positive.

Last reviewed by Lisa Oldson, MD, November 2011.

Lisa Oldson, MD

STD expert

"The first thing I tell a patient about STDs is that if you're worried about one STD, you should probably worry about all STDs. In other words, if you had unprotected sex and you're worried about a possible HIV exposure, it's important to understand that hepatitis can be spread in the same fashion...ditto for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes and syphilis."