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Check your risk of Hepatitis

There is a vaccine to prevent hepatitis A and B, however there is not one for hepatitis C. Viral hepatitis is an infection that affects the liver. There are at least six different types of hepatitis (A-G), with the three most common types being hepatitis A, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Hepatitis A is an acute infection and people usually improve without treatment. 

HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis

Hepatitis B and hepatitis C can cause a chronic, persistent infection, which can lead to chronic liver disease.

1 Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are bloodborne viruses transmitted primarily through sexual contact and injection drug use. Because of these shared modes of transmission, a high proportion of adults at risk for HIV infection are also at risk for HBV infection. HIV-positive persons who become infected with Hepatitis B virus (HBV) are at increased risk for developing chronic HBV infection and should be tested. In addition, persons who are co-infected with HIV and HBV can have serious medical complications, including an increased risk for liver-related morbidity and mortality. To prevent HBV infection in HIV-infected persons, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends universal Hepatitis B vaccination of susceptible patients with HIV/AIDS.

2 Hepatitis C

About one quarter of HIV-infected persons in the United States are also infected with Hepatitis C virus (HCV). HCV is a bloodborne virus transmitted through direct contact with the blood of an infected person. Thus, coinfection with HIV and HCV is common (50%–90%) among HIV-infected injection drug users. HCV is one of the most important causes of chronic liver disease in the United States and HCV infection progresses more rapidly to liver damage in HIV-infected persons. HCV infection may also impact the course and management of HIV infection. The U.S. Public Health Service/Infectious Diseases Society of America guidelines recommend that all HIV-infected persons be screened for HCV infection.

Gay and Bisexual Men's Health

Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men have a higher chance of getting viral hepatitis including Hepatitis A, B, and C, which are diseases that affect the liver. About 10% of new Hepatitis A and 20% of all new Hepatitis B infections in the United States are among gay and bisexual men. Many men have not been vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B, even though a safe and effective vaccine is available. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men also have a higher chance of getting Hepatitis C if they are involved in high-risk behaviors, such as injection drug use and other activities that result in blood sharing. While there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C, there are new, effective treatments.

How is Hepatitis A spread?

Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person accidentally swallows fecal matter (stool)—even in really small amounts—that has the Hepatitis A virus in it. The virus can be spread through contact with objects, food, or drinks contaminated by the feces, or stool, of a person who has the virus. Among gay and bisexual men, Hepatitis A can be spread through sexual activity or contact with fingers or objects that have the virus on it.

How is Hepatitis B spread?

Hepatitis B is spread when body fluids—such as semen (cum) or blood—from a person who has Hepatitis B enter the body of someone who does not have it. The Hepatitis B virus is very infectious and is easily spread during sexual activity. Hepatitis B also can be spread through sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment used to inject drugs. It can also be spread during pregnancy from an infected mother to her unborn child.

How is Hepatitis C spread?

Hepatitis C is spread through contact with the blood of someone who has Hepatitis C, mainly through sharing needles, syringes, or other injection drug equipment. Hepatitis C can also be spread when getting tattoos and body piercings in casual places or with non-sterile instruments. Although uncommon, Hepatitis C can also be spread through sexual contact. Having a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or HIV, sex with multiple partners, or rough sex can raise a person’s chance of getting Hepatitis C.

What are the symptoms of viral hepatitis?

The symptoms of viral hepatitis vary depending upon a person’s age and which type of hepatitis infection it is. There is also a difference between acute and chronic viral hepatitis. For acute hepatitis, symptoms, if they appear, will occur within several weeks to several months of exposure. Symptoms of chronic viral hepatitis can take decades to develop and people can live with an infection for years and not feel sick. When symptoms do appear with chronic hepatitis, it can be a sign of advanced liver disease. Symptoms for both acute and chronic viral hepatitis can include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, gray-colored stools, joint pain, and jaundice.

Can viral hepatitis be prevented?

Hepatitis A and B can be prevented through vaccinations. Experts recommend that all gay and bisexual men be vaccinated for Hepatitis A and B. The Hepatitis A and B vaccines can be given separately or as a combination vaccine. The vaccines are safe, effective, and require 2-3 shots within a six month period depending on the type of vaccine. A person should complete all shots in the series for long-term protection. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.

Key Facts about Viral Hepatitis in Men Who Have Sex with Men (MSM)

  • Among adults, an estimated 10% of new Hepatitis A cases and 20% of new Hepatitis B cases occur in MSM.
  • MSM are at increased risk for Hepatitis C if they are involved in high-risk behaviors.
  • There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C and testing for Hepatitis C is not recommended for MSM unless they were born from 1945 through 1965, have HIV, or are engaging in risky behaviors. The best way to prevent Hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs.

Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B Vaccine Recommendation for Men Who Have Sex with Men

CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccination for MSM.

  • The Hepatitis A and B vaccines can be given separately or as a combination vaccine using a recommended schedule

Hepatitis Education Myth Buster Video Series

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