HIV & Hepatitis

HIV and hepatitis are separate conditions, but they both require long-term medication management that’s best overseen by an experienced team like the one at MedCart Specialty Pharmacy.

Our dedicated pharmacists and support staff work with both physicians and patients, to bring together all the elements of a successful medication regimen. We understand the challenges of living with HIV and hepatitis, and are committed to providing cost-effective solutions to maximize the benefits of therapy.

HIV & Hepatitis Basics

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) weakens the body’s ability to fight infections, and is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV destroys specific blood cells that are essential to help the body fight off diseases. Some people notice flu-like symptoms just weeks after infection, while others may not develop symptoms for many years. Today, people can live for decades with HIV before developing AIDS thanks to better treatments.

Hepatitis is a viral infection of the liver that causes swelling and inflammation. There are a number of different kinds of hepatitis, including hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. It can be caused by many things, including infections from viruses, bacteria or parasites. It can also be caused by liver damage from alcohol or toxins, medications or immune cells in the body attacking the liver. Hepatitis can come and go quickly, or linger and cause long-term health issues.

Diagnosis and Treatment

HIV is most frequently diagnosed through tests that detect HIV antibodies, which are substances the body generates in response to being infected with HIV. Other tests can look for HIV’s genetic material or protein. It can take three months, and sometimes longer, for the body’s immune system to produce enough antibodies to ensure an accurate diagnosis. Anyone who may have been infected with HIV — most commonly through unprotected sex, sharing needles or being born to an infected mother — should be tested, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a second confirming test.

Although HIV can’t be cured, available therapies can slow the progression of the disease for many years. Many patients are given multiple drugs. The medication regimen is strict and must be followed exactly, for a lifetime, to be effective. In fact, not adhering to the therapy can create resistance to a particular drug.

Hepatitis can cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, dark urine and pale or clay-colored stool, fatigue, low-grade fever, yellowing of the skin or eyes, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting or the development of breasts in men. However, some people with hepatitis B or C may not have symptoms initially.

A physical exam and lab tests are used to diagnose and monitor hepatitis. Most people with hepatitis A don’t need treatment because it goes away on its own. People with hepatitis B and C, however, require medication that’s administered over a series of months or, in some cases, even longer — especially in the case of hepatitis C if there’s a relapse after initial treatment.