Many people think that because they’ve had a blood test, they will have automatically been tested for hepatitis B and hepatitis C and therefore don’t have to worry. In most situations this is not the case.

Hepatitis B and C are the most common blood borne viruses in Australia but testing for them is not part of normal blood tests—you generally have to ask your doctor.

There are two exceptions to this:

  1. Most pregnant women are tested for hepatitis B and hepatitis C as part of normal screening during pregnancy.1
  2. If you donate blood to the blood bank, it will be tested, and you will be notified if you have been exposed to hepatitis B or C.2

If your doctor has not spoken to you about testing for hepatitis and you think you may have been at risk recently or in the past, you should ask them for a hepatitis blood test.

It’s also important to remember that some tests for hepatitis only show whether you have been exposed to the virus and not whether you have a current infection. If you have been exposed to hepatitis B or hepatitis C, check with your doctor if this is a current infection. They may need to do a follow up test.

What is hepatitis?

Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are two different viruses that can cause liver damage, cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated. Some people clear hepatitis without any intervention during acute infection, within the first six months. People who clear the hepatitis B virus may also develop immunity and will be protected naturally against re-infection. This is not the case for hepatitis C as you can get hepatitis C again.

People who do not clear the virus within six months will go on to develop a chronic hepatitis infection. For hepatitis B the infection can be life long and there is no cure. For hepatitis C a cure is available.

How is hepatitis treated?

If you have hepatitis C there is a simple cure which is effective for 95% of people within 12 weeks.

If you have chronic hepatitis B there is currently no cure, but there is effective treatment that can reduce the effects of the virus. Regular liver health checks help determine if treatment is needed.

There is also a safe and effective vaccine that can protect you against contracting hepatitis B.

How do I know if I’m at risk?

You could be at risk of hepatitis B or C if you:3,4

  • were born in one of the countries shaded in the map5 below or are an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australian
  • had a blood transfusion or received blood products in Australia before 1990
  • have had a medical or dental procedure done overseas
  • have had a tattoo or piercing done overseas or by someone who was not a trained professional
  • have had sex without a condom and are not vaccinated against hepatitis B
  • have ever injected drugs (even just once)
  • have spent time in prison, corrections or other detention settings.

What if I don’t want to talk to my usual doctor about hepatitis?

If you don’t feel comfortable asking your usual doctor about hepatitis, you can make an appointment to see a different GP. If you would like help to find a doctor who is experienced with hepatitis B or hepatitis C, you can call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 437 222.

Find out more

Testing for hepatitis B

Testing for hepatitis C


  1. (2018, June). Blood tests during pregnancy. Retrieved from Pregnancy, birth & baby.
  2. Australian Red Cross. (n.d.) Blood testing and safety. Retrieved from Australian Red Cross Lifeblood.
  3. (2016, March). Indications for HBV testing. Retrieved from AHSM.
  4. (2017, March). Indications for HCV testing. Retrieved from AHSM.
  5. Map was developed using information from references 3 and 4

Last updated 17 June 2020