Article

Testing for hepatitis C

nurse cheery room takes blood diabetes
Medically reviewed by
AKF's Medical Advisory Committee
Last updated
November 6, 2021

If you are at risk for hepatitis C, ask your doctor about getting tested. Testing is the only way to know if you have hepatitis C.

There are two tests that can tell whether you have hepatitis C:

Antibody test

The antibody test is a blood test that checks for hepatitis C antibodies in your blood. Antibodies are proteins that the body makes to fight off infections.

If the test shows you have hepatitis C antibodies in your blood, this means you were infected with hepatitis C at some point in your life, but it does not always mean the virus is still active in your body.

You can have a negative or a positive result for the antibodies test.

  • Negative (Non-Reactive)
    • If you test negative for hepatitis C antibodies, this probably means you do not have hepatitis C.
    • If you test negative for hepatitis C antibodies but were directly exposed to blood infected with hepatitis C in the last 6 months, you will need to be tested again.
  • Positive (Reactive)
    • If you test positive for hepatitis C antibodies, this means you have been infected with hepatitis C at some point in your life.
    • You may have acute or chronic hepatitis C.
    • You may not have hepatitis C at all. You can still test positive for hepatitis C antibodies, but not have an active case of hepatitis C.  In certain cases, your body can completely clear the virus on its own.
    • You will need a second test, called an RNA or viral load test, to see whether hepatitis C is active in your body.

RNA or viral load test

If you test positively for hepatitis C antibodies, you will need to get an RNA or viral load test. The RNA test is a blood test that checks to see if hepatitis C is active in your body.

  • Negative
    • If your RNA test result is negative, you do not have hepatitis C.
  • Positive
    • If your RNA test result is positive, you may have chronic hepatitis C. Talk to your doctor right away about a treatment plan.

​​​​​​

Supported by an independent educational grant from Merck & Co., Inc.