Window Period. 2 weeks to 6 months
Sample(s) required. Blood from vein
Biological Marker. Antibody
Accuracy. Approx. 99%
Time for test results. 30 minutes
According to the World Health Organisation, approximately 58 million people are infected with Hepatitis C, with 1.5 million new infections happening each year.
Testing for Hepatitis C (HCV) begins with an antibody test. By testing for the presence of antibodies we are able to tell if you have been exposed to the Hepatitis C virus. A positive HCV antibody result indicates a current, or resolved, HCV infection.
Following a positive antibody test result a HCV ribonucleic acid (RNA) blood test will be done to check if the HCV infection is currently active.
If the antibody test result is negative, it is wise to consider repeating it at an appropriate time as it can take at least 3 months for HCV antibodies to become detectable in the blood. Your clinician will be able to explain when (and if) you need to re-test in more detail after taking into account your individual situation.
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In order to be most prepared and leave plenty of time for questions & discussions, we will ask you to fill out a simple questionnaire.
We will begin by assessing your medical & sexual history, any symptoms you may be experiencing and discuss any questions you may have.
If it is still appropriate to proceed with the Hepatitis C test (and you would like to), we will take a blood sample.
Medicine is a complicated subject and sometimes these guidelines don’t always hold the answers.
For example, treating an STI in a patient who has developed a resistance to routinely used antibiotics.
Unlike most private clinics, we have medical consultants here to help you navigate through such problems and get you on the right track in no time.
About The Test
How do you test for Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is diagnosed using an antibody test. By testing for the presence of antibodies we are able to tell whether you have been exposed to the Hepatitis C virus at some point in your life. If your antibody test result is positive, a Hepatitis C RNA PCR test will be performed which will confirm whether you are currently infected with the virus. If your Hepatitis C RNA PCR test is negative this indicates that you have a resolved Hepatitis C infection and no further action needs to be taken.
How accurate is the Hepatitis C antibody test?
The accuracy of the Hepatitis C antibody test is between 97 to 99%, meaning that it is unlikely to receive a false positive result.
However, there is a window period of 2 weeks to 6 months between the initial infection and the production of antibodies. If you test before this window period, you may receive a false negative.
Why do we take a blood sample?
Hepatitis C is a bloodborne virus, therefore a blood sample is needed as the virus resides most strongly in the blood. Most incidents of exposure occur through direct contact with infected blood.
When should I get tested for Hepatitis C?
The Incubation time for Hepatitis C is 2 weeks to 6 months. You should get tested for Hepatitis C if you have known exposure (for example, if you have had sex or shared a needle with someone who has the infection), you are a sex worker, drug user, engage in chemsex, travelling to or from a country with high prevalence of Hepatitis C, or if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Dark urine and pale faeces
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
What if I have no symptoms of Hepatitis C?
Most people who have a new Hepatitis C infection tend to show no symptoms at all and continue not to show symptoms until years later. It may be possible to have chronic Hepatitis C and not know about it until you begin to show signs of potential liver damage.
What other Hepatitis C tests are available?
Apart from the Hepatitis C antibody test there is another test used to diagnose your Hepatitis C status known as the Hepatitis C RNA PCR. This test is used to detect whether the Hepatitis C virus is currently present within your body.
What can affect my Hepatitis C test?
Your Hepatitis C test results can be affected by:
The time of your test
Testing too early after exposure may result in a false negative result as your body has not had time to create antibodies. You should get tested 6 to 12 weeks after exposure to lower the chances of getting a false positive.
Having a previous Hepatitis C infection
If you have previously been infected with Hepatitis C, you may still have the antibodies present in your body. This can result in a positive antibody test result even if you have not been exposed to Hepatitis C recently. If this happens, you will also need to have a Hepatitis C RNA PCR test to determine if the virus is currently active in your body or not.
How can I prepare for my appointment?
Here are a few tips on how to prepare for your appointment:
- Try to remember (as much as possible) the details of why you are visiting. For example, if you are showing symptoms, try to remember when these started and the potential cause of exposure.
- Drink lots of water beforehand to ensure that you are well hydrated and your veins are visible and easy to find. This ensures that we are able to take your blood sample as smoothly as possible. You do not need to hold your urine.
- Wear a half-sleeved, or an easy to pull up jumper, so that your arm is easily accessible.
- Relax, Clarewell Clinics is a safe space. Your medical history with us is completely confidential so you can be as open and honest as you wish to be with us.
Is my Hepatitis C test confidential?
All test results, and information you share with us, are confidential and will not be disclosed to anyone. We are a private clinic and therefore do not pass your information onto the NHS.
About The Results
How long do the Hepatitis C test results take?
If you are testing with us, the results take 30 minutes for a Hepatitis C antibody test.
If this test is reactive, we will run a complimentary Hepatitis C RNA PCR for confirmation - this can take 4 hours for results to arrive.
How will I receive my results?
You can receive your Hepatitis C results by either text or email.
Do I have to take any precautions whilst waiting for my results?
We recommend that you practice safe sex whilst waiting for your test results. You should also avoid doing anything where your blood can come in contact with another individual, for example, sharing needles, toothbrushes, and body-piercing jewellery.
What do my results mean?
A positive antibody test result indicates that you have been infected with Hepatitis C at some point in your life. It does not necessarily mean that you are currently infected.
Following a positive result, a Hepatitis C RNA PCR test will be run to see whether the virus is present and reproducing. If your PCR test is positive, it means you are currently infected. If your result is negative you will be asked to repeat the test after 6 months. A negative Hepatitis C RNA PCR result means that you are not currently infected with the virus but instead had a past, resolved, infection that led to the development of antibodies.
If your antibody test is negative but you have known exposure (or displaying symptoms) then it may be worth requesting a PCR test to be certain of your result. It is possible that your antibody test can be negative and your PCR test be positive. This is because the antibody test picks up the presence of antibodies, not the presence of the virus. As antibodies take around 6-12 weeks to develop, your clinician may advise you to retest, or offer a PCR test depending on your individual situation.
My partner has tested positive for Hepatitis C, but I am negative. How?
It is important to discuss this question with your clinician as they will have a better understanding of your individual situation and will be able to advise you better.
Do I have to tell my partner if I test positive for Hepatitis C?
It is essential to tell your partner(s) that you have tested positive so they can get tested and prevent the infection from spreading to other people.
Can I get a certificate of my results?
Yes, we provide a certificate of testing.
Please let us know at the time that you would like a certificate of testing and bring a proof of ID (passport or driving licence).
Sexual Health Consultation (inc. in test) £75
Hepatitis C Antibody Test (inc. consultation) £150
Hepatitis C Antibody Test (with Drop & Go) £70
Find out if you can claim your visit
Reviewed by: Mrs Magadelana Nowacka
Written By: Shannon Abraham
Last reviewed date: 7 May 2023
Next review due: 7 May 2026
Whilst this content is written and reviewed by sexual health specialists, it is for general guidance only. It is not intended to replace the advice of your clinician.
References & Further Reading
- NHS: Hepatitis C – Diagnosis
- WHO: Hepatitis C
- The Hepatitis C Trust: Testing for hepatitis C
- NHS: Essential information for professionals and guidance on testing – Hepatitis C
- NICE: How to test | Diagnosis | Hepatitis C