Treat Me Right: Getting treated for Hep C or HIV if you inject drugs

Do you have HIV or Hep C? Do you inject drugs?

If you answered yes, this resource is for you. Keep reading!

Lots of people who inject drugs have Hep C. Some people who inject drugs have HIV. This booklet has information on Hep C and HIV treatment for people who inject drugs and have Hep C or HIV.

CATIE also has another resource called What Works about how to take care of your health if you have Hep C or HIV and inject drugs.

Treatment may be something that can help you.

Hep C and HIV can make you very sick if you do not do anything about them.

One of the things you can do to take care of your health is to get treatment for Hep C or HIV.

Hep C and HIV are treated with medicines.

You can get treated for Hep C or HIV, even if you use drugs.

Remember, you have the right to be treated with respect by doctors, nurses, and other health workers. You can ask needle exchange workers or other people who use drugs about which doctors and nurses are good to work with.

Hep C treatment

Hepatitis C attacks the liver. Sometimes Hep C harms the liver slowly. So you may not need treatment right away.

If you have Hep C, you can have tests to find out how your liver is doing. Then you and your doctor can decide if treatment is right for you. 

Treatment can cure most people with Hep C.

You may have heard that side effects of treatment for Hep C are bad. That was true of older treatments. The new treatments have few side effects.

Hep C medicines are better. These treatments have fewer pills per day, no injections, shorter treatment times and can cure
many people.

HIV treatment

If you have HIV, you will need treatment. But you and your doctor can decide when to start treatment.

It is better to start before you feel sick.

Early treatment can help you stay healthier for longer.

Treatment cannot cure HIV. But it can help you stay healthy for a long time.

Getting ready to start treatment

Treatment is easier when you have a home, know people who can take care of you and have a plan to remember to take your medicine every day. But taking treatment is still possible if you don’t have all of these things.

Need help but not sure who to ask?

Talk to a nurse, doctor or support worker who knows about treatment.

They can help you.

Having problems with your treatment?

If you are having problems with your treatment, talk to your health worker. They can help you.

Getting treated for Hep C or HIV means that you have to take medicines every day.

Remembering to take your medicines every day can be difficult. But if you forget to take your medicines, your treatment may not work.

When HIV medicines stop working, they will never work again and you will need to switch medicines.

You may have side effects with your treatment. These side effects often get easier to handle after you have been on treatment for a while.

There are many ways you can handle these problems and stay on your treatment.

Using street drugs and taking treatment

If you are being treated for Hep C or HIV and you use drugs, be as honest as you can with your pharmacist and doctor about all the street drugs and medicines you are taking.

Some street drugs can make it more difficult for HIV or Hep C medicines to work.

Methadone and buprenorphine can also change how your medicines for HIV or Hep C work. Tell your HIV or Hep C doctor if you are taking methadone or buprenorphine.

Preventing an overdose

Some HIV and Hep C medicines can make street drugs stronger, which can cause you to overdose.

The first time you use street drugs after you start treatment for Hep C or HIV, start slowly. Try half a hit and see how you feel. Use drugs with someone
you trust.

Narcan or naloxone helps treat an opiate overdose and can save someone’s life. If Narcan is available where you live and you want to learn how to use it, talk to a worker at a needle exchange about how to get training.

Getting treatment in prison

If you are at risk of being arrested or going to prison, you may want to keep your doctor’s phone or fax numbers on you.

You may also want to memorize the names of all your medicines. Then you will be able to tell the prison’s health workers which medicines you take.

If you are being treated for Hep C or HIV, you have the right to keep getting treatment in prison. Your treatment should not be stopped when you go to prison.

If you have questions or need support for HIV or Hep C treatment in prison, you can call PASAN. PASAN is a group that supports prisoners living with HIV and/or Hep C. You can call PASAN collect at 416-920-9567 or 1-866-224-9978 from a federal prison.

Where can you get more information about Hep C or HIV?

Talk to:

  • a doctor
  • a nurse
  • a support worker
  • or call CATIE, 1-800-263-1638