Things to consider

Before you make your decision, it is worth considering whether or not this is the right time for you to take the test. Are you prepared? Have you considered the implications of your result?

This is not meant to put you off actually taking the test, but is intended to encourage you to plan for it. If you do have hepatitis C, postponing taking a test for a short period of time whilst you prepare yourself is unlikely to make a great deal of difference.

Having a pre-test consultation with a professional

The purpose of having a pre-test discussion should be to explore the implications of a positive or negative test result. It is advisable to only go ahead with a test after you have considered these implications and you feel confident that you are fully prepared. If you are at all unsure, require further information or you feel you need to discuss it with someone else, then make arrangements to return at a later date.

The option to have a pre-test discussion will vary according to whereabouts you are tested. For example, all sexual health clinics and most drug agencies will provide a pre-test discussion to those who request a hepatitis C antibody test. Some GPs will also provide the service, although this will largely depend on the resources they have. Whether you receive a pre-test discussion may also depend on the circumstances that have led to you being tested. So if your doctor is undertaking a series of investigative tests to determine the cause of certain symptoms you have presented him with, then it is likely that a hepatitis C test may be undertaken alongside a series of other tests. In this particular instance though, it is unlikely that a pre-test discussion will be considered.

Emotional impact

You may want to prepare yourself for the impact of a positive diagnosis. The result may cause very strong emotions that can be difficult to handle on your own. You may, for example, experience a lot of anger about how you contracted it or remorse about certain actions.

A positive diagnosis is, without doubt, a life-changing experience. Not only may it confirm your worst fears but it may also place a huge question mark over your future. For example, how ill am I going to get? Will I be able to have children? Will I be able to continue work? Who will care for me? Who will love me? Being faced with these uncertainties on your own can be a tall order. Do you think you could cope without support? And if you think you will need support do you have someone to be there for you?

Putting support in place

You may find it easier if you arrange for someone to be available for you to talk to after you receive your result. This could be a professional, a family member or a close friend. It is possible you will find the actual impact of a positive diagnosis more distressing than you had imagined, so it is good to have some support arranged just in case.

Impact on your partner

As it is possible, although extremely rare, that hepatitis C can be sexually transmitted, you may need to consider the possibility that a positive diagnosis could mean your partner may also be positive. Another thing to consider here is that your partner may be negative. But if you receive a positive result, there is still a small risk you might pass the virus on to them. You may want to open up the question of how this may affect your relationship.

Mortgages and Insurance

If you test positive you can still receive mortgages and insurances. Having hepatitis C is unlikely to affect your ability to get a mortgage. However, life insurance policies will often require that you inform them if you have the virus. The price of the policy may be higher, or they may refuse to cover any claim that comes about from an existing condition such as hepatitis C. If you apply for a mortgage or insurance, you may well be asked about your health. You are required by law to give an honest answer. If you have hepatitis C, your insurance may be invalidated and any claims refused if you do not disclose your status.

If either your mortgage broker or insurance provider wishes to obtain a medical report about you from your doctor, they are required to gain your permission prior to contacting them. In this kind of situation it is worth being careful. Sometimes you sign papers that merely contain quotes or estimates, but they may also include small print that states you are giving them permission to obtain your medical records. Read all the small print very carefully before signing anything. You are entitled to see any requested medical reports prior to them being dispatched. If you wish to see the report, you should make any request clear to your doctor.

To conclude

Before taking a test you should consider whether you are prepared for the changes it may make to your life. Perhaps you could make some preliminary arrangements or put some plans into place before going for a test. But remember that delaying or postponing the test should be about allowing yourself time to prepare for it. The only definite way to know whether you have hepatitis C is by taking the test. On the whole this is a positive step to take.

Other information that might be useful