Globally, hepatitis C virus (HCV) has infected an estimated 130 million people, most of whom are chronically infected. HCV-infected people serve as a reservoir for transmission to others and are at risk for developing chronic liver disease, cirrhosis, and primary hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). It has been estimated that HCV accounts for 27% of cirrhosis and 25% of HCC worldwide. HCV infection has likely been endemic in many populations for centuries. However, the wave of increased HCV-related morbidity and mortality that we are now facing is the result of an unprecedented increase in the spread of HCV during the 20th century. Two 20th century events appear to be responsible for this increase; the widespread availability of injectable therapies and the illicit use of injectable drugs.