Call: (760) 323-2118
8am to 5pm Monday - Friday

Call: (760) 323-2118
8am to 5pm Mon - Fri

The Hepatitis Center of Excellence, located at Desert AIDS Project, is designed to address a serious and growing need for Hepatitis care in our local community. The center delivers comprehensive, state-of-the-art expertise to manage, support and cure those afflicted with Hepatitis.

Services Include:

  • FibroScan noninvasive, painless testing
  • Physicians and Pharmacists who specialize in Hepatitis care
  • Most insurance plans accepted, including Medicare and Medi-Cal
  • Uninsured income-qualified patients can receive care at reduced costs
  • For more information, call the Hepatitis Center of Excellence at (760) 276-5097
Shubha Kerkar, MD MACP
Hepatitis Center of Excellence Director

Dr. Kerkar is an award-winning, board-certified infectious disease doctor who is passionate about curing people who live with Hepatitis C throughout Southern California. She has been helping D.A.P. clients lead healthy lives for more than 20 years and has been instrumental in building the Hepatitis Center of Excellence.

Chronic Hep C is a serious disease that can result in long-term health problems, including liver damage, liver failure, liver cancer, or even death. It is the leading cause of cirrhosis and liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation in the United States. Approximately 15,000 people die every year from Hepatitis C related liver disease.

Hepatitis C (Hep C) is usually spread when blood from a person infected with the virus enters the body of someone who is not infected. People can become infected with the Hepatitis C virus during such activities as:

  • Sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs
  • Needle stick injuries in health care settings
  • Being born to a mother who has Hepatitis C
  • Blood transfusions or organ donation before 1992
  • Less common, a person can also get the Hep C virus infection through:
  • Sharing personal care items that may have come in contact with another person’s blood, such as razors or toothbrushes
  • Having sexual contact with a person infected with the Hepatitis C virus

Some people are at increased risk for Hepatitis C, including:

  • Current injection drug users (currently the most common way Hepatitis C virus is spread in the United States)
  • Past injection drug users, including those who injected only one time or many years ago
  • Recipients of donated blood, blood products, and organs (once a common means of transmission but now rare in the United States since blood screening became available in 1992)
  • People who received a blood product for clotting problems made before 1987
  • Hemodialysis patients or persons who spent many years on dialysis for kidney failure
  • People who received body piercing or tattoos done with non-sterile instruments

People with known exposures to the Hep C virus, such as:

  • Health care workers injured by needle sticks
  • Recipients of blood or organs from a donor who tested positive for the Hep C virus
  • HIV-infected persons
  • Children born to mothers infected with the Hep C virus
No vaccine for Hep C is available. Research into the development of a vaccine is under way.

Hepatitis C can be either “Acute” or “Chronic.”Acute: Hep C virus infection is a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after someone is exposed to the Hep C virus. Approximately 70%–80% of people with acute Hep C do not have any symptoms. Some people, however, can have mild to severe symptoms soon after being infected, including:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Clay-colored bowel movements
  • Joint pain
  • Jaundice (yellow color in the skin or eyes)

Chronic: Hep C infection becomes chronic in approximately 75%–85% of cases. Even if a person with Hep C has no symptoms, he or she can still spread the virus to others. Many people who are infected with the virus do not know they are infected because they do not look or feel sick.

If symptoms occur, the average time is 6–7 weeks after exposure, but this can range from 2 weeks to 6 months. However, many people infected with the Hep C virus do not develop symptoms.

Chronic Hepatitis C virus infection is a long-term illness that occurs when the virus remains in a person’s body. The Hep C virus infection can last a lifetime and lead to serious liver problems, including cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver cancer.

Most people with chronic Hep C do not have any symptoms. However, if a person has been infected for many years, his or her liver may be damaged. In many cases, there are no symptoms of the disease until liver problems have developed. In persons without symptoms, Hepatitis C is often detected during routine blood tests to measure liver function and liver enzyme level (protein produced by the liver).

Talk to your doctor about being tested for Hep C if any of the following is true:

  • You were born from 1945 through 1965
  • You are a current or former injection drug user, even if you injected only one time or many years ago.
  • You were treated for a blood clotting problem before 1987.
  • You received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992.
  • You are on long-term hemodialysis treatment.
  • You have abnormal liver tests or liver disease.
  • You work in health care or public safety and were exposed to blood through a needle stick or other sharp object injury.
  • You are infected with HIV.
Several different blood tests are used to test for Hep C. A doctor may order just one or a combination of these tests. Typically, a person will first get a screening test that will show whether he or she has developed antibodies to the Hep C virus. (An antibody is a substance found in the blood that the body produces in response to a virus.) Having a positive antibody test means that a person was exposed to the virus at some time in his or her life. If the antibody test is positive, a doctor will most likely order a second test to confirm whether the virus is still present in the person’s bloodstream.

Acute Hep C can be treated. An Acute infection can clear on its own without treatment in about 25% of people. If Acute Hep C is diagnosed, treatment does reduce the risk that Acute Hep C will become a Chronic infection. Acute Hep C is treated with the same medications used to treat Chronic Hepatitis C. However, the optimal treatment and when it should be started remains uncertain. There are several medications available to treat Chronic Hepatitis C, including new treatments that appear to be more effective and have fewer side effects than previous options. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains a complete list of approved treatments for Hepatitis C.

For an appointment, call the Hepatitis Center of Excellence at (760) 276-5097

Free walk-in testing at The DOCK for Hepatitis C, click here for hours and location or call The DOCK at (760) 537-4753.

The Hepatitis Center of Excellence and The DOCK are located at Desert AIDS Project: 1695 N Sunrise Way Palm Springs, CA 92262

Additional information:
Justification for Using FibroScan