Getting testing for hepatitis C

Testing is the only way to find out if you have hepatitis C

There are close to 250,000 people living with hepatitis C in Canada. Many people who have hepatitis C don’t know it.


Most people do not show any signs or symptoms until many years after getting hepatitis C.

  • If and when people do have symptoms, they are very general and may feel like other illnesses.
  • As the liver becomes more damaged, symptoms may include feeling tired all the time, body aches, dry and itchy skin, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness and confusion (called “brain fog”) or a yellowing of the skin and eyes (called jaundice).

The only way to really know is to get tested.

  • If you think someone else’s blood could have made its way into your body – even one time – or you feel unwell, visit your doctor or a health centre to talk about getting tested.

It takes two tests to know if you have hepatitis C.

Unlike some other viruses, there are two separate blood tests for hepatitis C:

The first test: Hepatitis C antibody testing is used to see if a person has ever come in contact with hepatitis C. When hepatitis C first enters the bloodstream, the immune system in the body produces antibodies against the virus. The hepatitis C antibody test looks for hepatitis C antibodies in the blood. A negative test result means that a person has never come in contact with hepatitis C.

A positive test result means that a person came in contact with hepatitis C at some point. But, antibodies stay in the body even when someone clears the virus. Follow-up testing is important: The second test shows if the virus is still in the body.

The second test: Virus testing (called a PCR test, a viral load test or an RNA test) checks for active hepatitis C infection. A negative virus test result means that a person does not have hepatitis C. A positive test result means that a person does have hepatitis C.


For more information, or to arrange to get tested for Hepatitis C, please contact us.

Read more:

What is hepatitis C?

How can you get hepatitis C?

Protecting yourself from hepatitis C

Getting tested for hepatitis C


This information was provided by CATIE (Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange).

For more information, contact CATIE at 1.800.263.1638 or

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