What is it?
Hepatitis C is a blood borne virus that damages the liver. Transmission occurs through blood-to-blood contact, and most transmission occurs as a result of sharing injecting drug equipment (including steroid use). Sexual transmission can occur too especially through unprotected anal sex, and some forms of rough sex where bleeding is likely to result (e.g. fisting).
If you are infected for a long time without it being diagnosed, it can be very serious.
How can I prevent it?
Using condoms and lube greatly reduces the risk of transmission. Use gloves for fisting, and don’t share household items that might have come into contact with blood; such as razors, toothbrushes or nail scissors.
Hepatitis C is a good reason why men living with HIV and having sex with other positive men should use condoms and lube, as having both HIV and hepatitis C at the same time (often called “co-infection”) can cause serious treatment complications.
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.
How do I know if I have Hepatitis C?
Many people have no symptoms and are often unaware they have the virus. Even if you have no symptoms, you can still pass the virus on to others.
Jaundice, diarrhoea and weight loss are the most common physical symptoms. Other physical and mental symptoms can include feeling sick or generally unwell, an extreme tiredness and depression.
Is there treatment?
Hepatitis C can be treated but treatment is not always successful; treatment options are based on a number of factors including which strain of the virus you have, how well your liver is functioning, your age/sex, and how long you have had the infection.
Anti-viral drugs are less likely to be successful if you also have HIV, but treatment is still possible. Like all drugs they can have side effects, such as depression.