Hepatitis A + B

There are several different types of Hepatitis viruses which all affect the liver, though the main three types to be aware of as gay and bisexual men are A, B and C. There are vaccines available for Hepatitis A and B, and we strongly advise all gay and bisexual men to get these. This can be done free of charge at the Sexual Health Clinic.

Hepatitis A

What is it?

Hepatitis A is caused by a virus found in faeces (shit). It is spread when very small amounts of faeces get into the mouth. This can happen during sex that involves fingering, licking (rimming), anal sex or handling condoms that have been used for anal sex. Food and water can become infected and this is common in countries with poor hygiene.

How can I prevent it?

A vaccine is available for Hepatitis A. Men who have sex with other men should consider getting vaccinated.

Without the vaccination, risks can be reduced by washing your hands after using the toilet, using condoms and plenty of lubricant for anal sex, gloves and plenty of lubricant for fisting and a barrier (dental dam or cut-up condom for rimming.

How do I know if I have Hepatitis A?

Symptoms can be mild and may include flu-like symptoms, diarrhoea, sickness and tiredness. Urine becomes dark and faeces become pale.

Is there treatment?

There is no specific treatment and most people fight off the virus naturally, returning to full health within a couple of months.  You need plenty of rest and to avoid alcohol and other drugs to allow time for your liver to recover.

Hepatitis B

What is it?

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is carried in the blood and body fluids. It is passed on very easily and is up to 100 times more infectious than HIV.

It is passed on through:

• Unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person without a condom

• Direct contact with the blood of an infected person e.g. by sharing toothbrushes and razors

• from equipment used for tattooing and body piercing

• and between drug users who share needles, syringes and other equipment

How can I prevent it?

There is an effective vaccine available for Hepatitis B. Men who have sex with other men should get vaccinated. Without the vaccination, risks can be reduced by using condoms and plenty of lubricant for anal sex, a barrier (dental dam, cut-up condom for rimming and avoid getting urine in the eyes and mouth if you’re into watersports).

If you inject drugs, or use steroid injections to enhance body building, you should use clean equipment every time you inject and never share any of your injecting equipment – needles, syringes, swabs, spoons, filters, water or anything else as this can pass on the virus.

How do I know if I have Hepatitis B?

Many people with acute hepatitis B infection have no symptoms at all and do not know that they are infected. Others have 'flu-like symptoms and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice). In most cases hepatitis B infection can only be identified by a blood test. Most adults infected with hepatitis B recover fully, but 1 in 10 may develop a prolonged, chronic infection. A small proportion of these people develop serious liver disease later in life which can lead to liver cancer and the need for a liver transplant.

Is there treatment?

There is no cure for Hepatitis B and, no effective medical treatment for acute Hepatitis B infection, just rest and avoid alcohol and other drugs.

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