Hep C

Hepatitis C infection (Hep C) is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV). In Ontario, about 110,000 people are living with Hep C. Roughly 20% of people don’t know they have it.

Hep C attacks your liver. Your body can try to fight it — and sometimes it can win—but the virus is very strong. Ordinary medicines like antibiotics do not kill viruses, but there are special Hep C medications that work for many people.

You can get Hep C when blood containing HCV gets in your blood. The highest-risk activity for getting Hep C is using drug equipment—needles, syringes, swabs, filters, spoons and water—that has been used by someone else. Taking care to avoid contact with materials that could have blood on them, even if you can’t see any blood,  helps you stay safe.

Are you at Risk?

Hepatitis C is spread when blood that has Hep C in it gets into your bloodstream. Some activities put you at high risk, others have some risk, and some have no risk.

High risk

    1. Using equipment for injection drug use—needles, syringes, cookers, ties, filters, alcohol wipes and water—that was already used by someone else.
    2. Using other drug equipment— pipes and straws or bills for snorting—that was already used by someone else.
    3. Having a tattoo or piercing done with equipment that has not been sterilized properly.
    4. Participating in practices and rituals that involve cutting (and sharing the same cutting tool).
    5. Having had a transfusion of blood or blood products before 1992. Since 1992, donated blood in Canada is tested for Hep C.
    6. Reusing needles for vaccination or medical procedures (it is rare for this to happen in Canada these days).

Some risk
Having unprotected sex that may involve contact with infected blood, such as fisting or sex when a woman has her period. It is easier for Hep C to be passed on during sex if someone has HIV.

    1. Getting a needlestick injury.
    2. Sharing personal things—razors, nail clippers, toothbrushes.
    3. Being born to a woman who has Hep C. This is rare, but the risk is higher if the woman has both Hep C and HIV.

No risk (no blood contact)

  1. Hugging and kissing
  2. Day-to-day contact with family or friends
  3. Using public bathrooms

Anyone can get Hep C, but studies show that there are high rates in people who use and inject drugs, people living on the street, Aboriginal peoples, people in prison and immigrants from countries where there are high rates of Hep C.

What are the signs of Hep C?

Many people do not feel sick when they are first infected with Hep C. If they do, the most common early symptoms are:

  1. Flu-like symptoms
  2. Mild fever
  3. Muscle aches
  4. Feeling very tired
  5. Loss of appetite
  6. Feeling sick
Many people do not feel sick when they are infected with Hep C. People living with chronic Hep C infection report fatigue, flu-like symptoms and joint and muscle aches that may be a result of chronic infection. Symptoms with advanced, chronic infection may include:

  1. Dark coffee-coloured urine (rather than dark yellow)
  2. Clay-coloured stools
  3. Stomach pain
  4. Yellowing of the skin and/or whites of the eyes
Even though you may have no symptoms for many years, you can still have an active infection and can pass on Hep C to others.
Toronto Community Hepatitis C Program

We aim to improve people’s quality of life by: reducing the barriers and stigma for people living with Hepatitis C, providing equitable access to comprehensive care and services, strengthening the capacity of people with lived experience of HCV to self-advocate, creating a sustainable program, and building a healthy community through prevention, education and support.

The program comprises a team of health professionals dedicated to providing client-centred care for people with Hep C, including Primary Care Doctors, Nurses, Counsellors, Outreach Workers and Educators.

Access to people with personal experience of living with Hep C and people who have gone through Hep C treatment.

Download the Toronto Community Hepatitis C Partnership Referral Form

Groups

Hep C Treatment Groups
After completing an intake, the program offers treatment groups at three different sites: South Riverdale Community Health Centre, Regent Park Community Health Centre, and Sherbourne Health Centre. If you are interested in joining these groups, please talk with your health care provider.

Hep C Continuing Care

This program group is for people who are not in a treatment group because they have completed treatment, have been taken off treatment or are not eligible for treatment.

Support

  1. Testing for Hepatitis C
  2. Hepatitis & Harm Reduction information, education, and treatment
  3. Individual and group support
  4. Food and transportation for group attendance
  5. Testing for other infections
  6. Advocacy
  7. Referrals to other services