Living With Hepatitis C Virus

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Living with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection requires some lifestyle adjustments. New treatments have made it possible to avoid many of the complications of HCV, but you still need to avoid certain food and medications, and you may need to deal with the emotional, social, and financial impact of the illness. 

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HCV results in an emotional and psychological burden and has been associated with depression. Your own anxiety about infecting other people can also add to your emotional burden of living with the infection. There are several ways to cope with emotional aspects of HCV. 

  • Social Stigma: There is a social stigma around HCV as well as discrimination against people who have HCV. This is largely because the disease is contagious and because it can be acquired through drug use and unprotected sex. It is completely up to you whether you want to share information about your diagnosis with people you know. Some people with HCV may feel comfortable sharing this information, while others may not. 
  • Protecting Others: While you are entitled to your own privacy, you do have a responsibility to protect others from your infection by informing sexual partners and anyone who could come into contact with your blood. Maintaining honesty and integrity in this area is an important way to care for your emotional response to the condition as well. 
  • Self-Perception: A recent study showed that how people living with HCV perceive the infection has an impact on the approach to treatments. A better understanding of the illness improves a person's ability to understand treatment options and to make more informed decisions. This means that the more you learn about HCV, the more likely you are to consider all of your treatment options when making a decision. 
  • Depression: Depression has been associated with HCV. The best way to approach depression is to get professional help, as you would for any other symptom. Counseling and medical therapy can help diminish the symptoms of depression for the long term. 


If you have HCV, there are a number of precautions you have to take involving the food, drinks, and medications that you use. Liver disease interferes with your metabolism, making some items that could have been safe for you prior to your HCV diagnosis no longer safe. 

If you have HCV, there are a number of medications that you have to avoid, because they are either processed by the liver or can be toxic to the liver. Some guidelines when taking medications include: 

  • Read the labels on all medications, including over-the-counter medications, to ensure that they do not interact with the liver. If a medicine cannot be taken if you have liver disease, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist for an alternative suggestion. 
  • Do not take higher doses or more frequent doses of any medication. 
  • Do not take medications that are not recommended by your team of healthcare providers.

Finally, If you have HCV, alcohol can be dangerous for your body. Even a moderate intake of alcohol can result in toxins that your body cannot handle, can cause progression of liver disease, and can interfere with the treatments used for HCV.


Healthy interactions with other people can help in coping with the illness. It is important to maintain social relationships unrelated to your HCV diagnosis. And for some people, seeking out connections from others who have lived with the illness can provide additional guidance and support. 

  • Family and Friends: Maintaining relationships with family and friends remains a central part of healthy living. When you have a contagious illness, the dynamic may change between you and others who may become judgmental, fearful, or aloof. Making choices about healthy relationships is a challenge. You might decide that you want to invest in rebuilding relationships with people who you value, or you may decide that the emotional strain of some relationships is unhealthy for you. 
  • Work: Many people derive self-esteem, not to mention financial sustenance, from working. If you have HCV, you may need to take some time off from your work or school due to illness and treatment, but most people with HCV can remain healthy after taking anti-viral medications. If you choose to work, you might notice, as many people do, that the social aspects of your work setting provides you with healthy interactions with others that allow you to focus on things outside of your own HCV diagnosis. 
  • Support Groups: With many medical conditions, including HCV, support groups provide a place where you can talk about your diagnosis with others who have gone through the same experience. People who have GCV can give you tips and advice. As you learn about how to cope with your illness, you may also be able to provide advice for others. If you want to join a support group, you can ask for direction about where to find a local group at your healthcare provider's office, or you can find support groups through national organizations. 


The cost of the medications that you may need for treatment of your HCV infection can be quite high. Assistance programs can help with this burden, particularly if the cost is not covered by your health insurance. 

Fair Pricing Coalition

The Fair Pricing Coalition (FPC) provides co-pay and patient assistance programs (PAPs) with most hepatitis drug manufacturers. These programs provide assistance to people with HCV who meet eligibility criteria, which is based on household family income. The criteria for inclusion varies by program. 

Co-pay Programs

Co-pay programs work by assisting with the insurance co-payment of each individual drug. These programs may be available to you based on your income level. You can check with your health insurance or the company that manufactures your medication for guidance with these programs.  

PAP Programs

PAPS may be sponsored by pharmaceutical manufacturers, and the specific rules and qualifications may vary, Usually, qualification is based on household income level. Some PAPs, for example, can assist you if your income is less than 500 percent of the  Federal Poverty Level (FPL). PAPs work by providing low-cost or even no-cost medications if you are qualified based on your income level. FPL amounts currently used for eligibility assessment are available through the website.

The Common PAP Application, an initiative coordinated through the U.S. government to streamline the application process. The completed form will then need to be submitted to each individual pharmaceutical assistance program for processing.

Application Process

Some patient assistance organizations can help you with the application process for assistance with payment of medications. The Patient Access Network (PAN) Foundation and the Patient Advocate Foundation Co-Pay Relief program are two organizations that can assist you with the application process.  

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I prevent spreading hepatitis C to my family members?

    Hepatitis C spreads through exposure to infected blood. To avoid passing on the virus, do not share toothbrushes, razors, or other personal items; carefully clean any cuts or injuries; and use barrier protection during sexual intercourse with your partner.

  • Are there ways to stop hepatitis C from getting worse?

    Following your healthcare provider’s recommendations and taking your medication as directed can result in a complete cure of your hep C. Research shows that other factors may also play a role in recovery and quality of life:

    • Maintain a healthy weight.
    • Get other diseases or illnesses under control.
    • Avoid stress.
    • Do not use intravenous drugs.
10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Kostić M, Kocić B, Tiodorović B. Stigmatization and discrimination of patients with chronic hepatitis C. Vojnosanit Pregl. 73(12):1116-24. doi:10.2298/VSP150511135K

  2. Whiteley D, Whittaker A, Elliott L, Cunningham-burley S. Hepatitis C in a new therapeutic era: Recontextualising the lived experience. J Clin Nurs. 27(13-14):2729-2739. doi:10.1111/jocn.14083

  3. Dowsett LE, Coward S, Lorenzetti DL, Mackean G, Clement F. Living with Hepatitis C Virus: A Systematic Review and Narrative Synthesis of Qualitative Literature. Can J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017:3268650. doi:10.1155/2017/3268650

  4. American Liver Foundation. Support for patients with Hepatitis C

  5. Fair Pricing Coalition (FPC) 

  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. U.S. Federal Poverty Guidelines Used to Determine Financial Eligibility for Certain Federal Programs

  7. Patient Access Network (PAN) Foundation

  8. Patient Advocate Foundation Co-Pay Relief

  9. Cleveland Clinic. Important things to know about a hepatitis C diagnosis.

  10. Cossais S, Schwarzinger M, Pol S, et al. Quality of life in patients with chronic hepatitis C infection: Severe comorbidities and disease perception matter more than liver-disease stage. PLOS ONE. 14(5):e0215596. doi:10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0215596

Additional Reading

By Naheed Ali, MD
Naheed Ali, MD, PhD, is the author of "Understanding Hepatitis: An Introduction for Patients and Caregivers."