Living with hepatitis b partner

Keeping Loved Ones Safe: Sex and Viral Hepatitis

Viral hepatitis from hepatitis A, B, and C can be transmitted from person to person through sexual contact. Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are considered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), so practicing safe sex is essential.

The three common types of viral hepatitis — A, B, and C — are different. Hepatitis A does not require treatment and will clear up on its own in a few weeks or months. But hepatitis B or C, may develop into a chronic, long-term infection and can spread to sexual partners.

Hepatitis can be spread by contact with infected body fluids such as:

  • Blood
  • Serum
  • Semen
  • Vaginal fluid

Sexual spread of hepatitis can occur through sexual intercourse and through other types of sexual contact that involve exposure to infected body fluids.

If you have been diagnosed with hepatitis, part of your responsibility is to keep your sexual partners safe. People with hepatitis should be especially careful to practice safe sex, which means using latex condoms to avoid acquiring or transmitting viral hepatitis.

Hepatitis A and Safe Sex

Hepatitis A is most often contracted through eating or drinking something that has been contaminated with the feces of an infected person. Contact with feces of an infected person through sexual activity, including anal sex or oral-anal activity, can result in the spread of hepatitis A to a sexual partner. Even a condom may not be protective, because handling a contaminated condom may lead to spread of the virus onto hands and into the mouth.

Hepatitis B and Safe Sex

“All three forms of viral hepatitis may be transmitted sexually, although hepatitis B is most commonly transmitted sexually,” explains Michael B. Fallon, MD, professor of medicine at The University of Texas Medical School in Houston. Once you have been diagnosed with hepatitis B, you should tell your partner so he or she can be tested. If your partner does not have hepatitis B, and is not already immune to hepatitis B, a vaccine is recommended.

“Sexual partners of individuals with hepatitis B should consider vaccination to prevent acquiring infections,” says Fallon. Hepatitis B immune globulin — which works like an antibody, quickly fighting infection — can also be given to a partner who has been exposed to your body fluids within two weeks after exposure to prevent infection. Even after your partner has been vaccinated, you should always use a condom.

RELATED: Hepatitis C Treatment Gets an Ambitious Makeover

Hepatitis C and Safe Sex

As with hepatitis B, the time to tell any sexual partner about your diagnosis is before you have sex — or if you have already had sex, before you have sex again. Again, if you are having sex you need to use condoms and avoid risky sexual activity.

“In patients with hepatitis C in stable monogamous relationships, the rate of transmission appears to be in the range of 2 to 4 percent per year,” says Fallon.

Even though the chance of transmitting hepatitis C is lower if you are having sex with only one partner, you still need to be responsible and cautious. “Since there is no effective vaccine… prevention is of particular importance in this group,” warns Fallon. Using condoms will decrease the risk of transmitting your hepatitis C infection to your partner.

Tips for Safe Sex With Hepatitis

  1. Be as safe as possible. Refrain from engaging in risky sexual activities, take precautions against transmission, and get tested regularly for other forms of hepatitis and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Consider sharing your hepatitis diagnosis with your partner or partners, and find out more about their sexual history.
  2. Know how STDs are spread. Direct contact of blood, semen, or vaginal fluids with an open sore anywhere in the vagina, anus, or mouth makes passage of infection more likely. But there does not have to be a visible sore for the virus to be passed to your sexual partner, as even a minor break in the skin or mucous membranes of the genital area can allow the virus to enter.
  3. Use condoms. Use a latex condom for any type of sex, and use a water-based lubricant to help reduce the chance of the condom breaking. A lubricant also decreases the chance of developing a friction-related sore on the penis or inside the vagina. The condom should be worn from the beginning until the end of sexual activity, and care should be taken when handling and disposing of the condom afterward.
  4. Don’t mix sex and alcohol. Mixing alcohol or other drugs with sexual activity can impair your judgment, reduce your ability to communicate responsibly before sex, and interfere with proper condom use.

Talking about sensitive issues like sex and hepatitis can be difficult, but it is your responsibility to protect your partner — and to protect yourself from additional infections. Think ahead and plan out what you want to say. Consider discussing the issue with your doctor or getting the advice of a trusted friend before talking to your partner.

When it’s time, find a private place where you can talk to your partner without interruption.

Sexual Transmission and Viral Hepatitis

Hepatitis A

Transmission of hepatitis A virus can occur from any sexual activity with an infected person and is not limited to fecal-oral contact. Measures typically used to prevent the transmission of other STDs (e.g., use of condoms) do not prevent hepatitis A transmission. Vaccination is the most effective means of preventing Hepatitis A transmission among persons at risk for infection.

Hepatitis A Vaccine Recommendations for Sexually Active Adults
CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend the hepatitis A vaccination for men who have sex with men. Sexually active adults are not considered at risk for hepatitis A unless they live with or are having sex with an infected person, inject drugs or have chronic liver disease.

Among adults, hepatitis B transmission occurs primarily among unvaccinated adults with risk behaviors for hepatitis B transmission, including having multiple sex partners and sex partners of people with chronic hepatitis B infection. Hepatitis B is easily transmitted through sexual activity. Sexual contact is the most common way hepatitis B is spread in the United States.

Among adults seeking treatment in STD clinics, as many as 10%–40% have evidence of past or current hepatitis B virus infection. Many of these infections could have been prevented through universal vaccination during delivery of STD prevention or treatment services. A study of adults diagnosed with acute hepatitis B found that 39% had sought care or been screened for an STD before they were infected with hepatitis B, indicating a significant missed opportunity to vaccinate at-risk persons when they first access STD prevention or treatment services.

Offering vaccination to all adults as part of routine prevention services in STD treatment facilities has been demonstrated to be effective at increasing vaccination coverage among adults at risk for hepatitis B infection since nearly all patients have behavioral risk factors for hepatitis B infection.

Hepatitis B Vaccine Recommendations for Sexually Active Adults

CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend the hepatitis B vaccination for

  • Sexually active people who are not in long-term, mutually monogamous relationships (e.g., people with more than one sex partner during the previous 6 months)
  • People seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually transmitted disease

CDC also recommends hepatitis B testing and hepatitis B vaccination for

  • Sex partners of people with hepatitis B

Hepatitis C

Although not common, hepatitis C can be transmitted through sexual activity. Having a sexually transmitted disease or HIV, sex with multiple partners, or rough sex appears to increase a person’s risk for hepatitis C. Case-control studies have reported an association between acquiring hepatitis C infection and exposure to a sex contact with hepatitis C infection or exposure to multiple sex partners. New research shows that gay men who are HIV-positive and have multiple sex partners may increase their risk for hepatitis C. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C. 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 C testing is recommended for anyone at risk for getting hepatitis C but is not based on sexual activity.

Scientific Guidelines and Recommendations

Prevention of Hepatitis B Virus Infection in the United States: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices
MMWR 2018;67(No. RR-1):1–31

Healthcare Provider Resources

Hepatitis B Tools and Resources

Patient Resources

Hepatitis B and Sexual Health pdf icon

Hepatitis B symptoms & treatment

FAST FACTS

• Hepatitis B is found in infected blood, semen and vaginal fluids.

• It’s a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can be passed on through having sex without a condom or sharing sex toys with someone who has hepatitis B (even if they don’t have symptoms); using contaminated needles and syringes or other items with infected blood on them; or from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby.

• Hepatitis B can be prevented by practising safer sex including using male and female condoms, dental dams and latex gloves; never sharing needles and syringes; and avoiding unlicensed tattoo parlours and acupuncturists; and/or having a hepatitis B vaccination (high risk groups and infants).

• A simple blood test carried out by a healthcare professional will show whether you have hepatitis B.

• Most people don’t need treatment for acute hepatitis B. If it develops into chronic hepatitis B, treatment is available to reduce the risk of further complications, such as liver damage.

If you’ve had unprotected sex, or you’re worried about hepatitis B or other STIs, get tested as soon as possible – even if you don’t have any symptoms.

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B – hep B or HBV – is part of a group of hepatitis viruses that causes inflammation of the liver – which is when your liver becomes swollen and painful.

Is hepatitis B serious?

Hepatitis B can be serious and, without appropriate treatment and care, can cause liver disease and liver cancer leading to death.

How do you get hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B can be passed on very easily and you can get it if you:

  • have unprotected sex (sex without a condom or dental dam), including vaginal, anal and oral sex with someone who has hepatitis B (even if they don’t have symptoms).
  • share sex toys that aren’t washed or covered with a new condom each time they are used.
  • are fingering, rimming or fisting – exploring your partner’s anus (bottom) with your fingers, mouth or tongue; touching used condoms and sex toys that have been in someone else’s anus (bottom).
  • share contaminated needles and syringes during recreational drug use.
  • are exposed to unsterilised tattoo, body-piercing or medical/dental equipment (occasionally you can get it from sharing a towel, razor blades or a toothbrush if there is infected blood on them).
  • are a pregnant woman with hepatitis B you can pass the virus on to your unborn baby.

Hepatitis B, HIV and sexual health

  • Having an STI, including hepatitis B, increases your risk of getting HIV. This is because most STIs cause sores or lesions that make it easier for HIV to enter the body.
  • Because they are passed on in similar ways, some people have both viruses, which is known as co-infection.
  • People with both viruses are more likely to develop chronic hepatitis B, and their liver can get damaged more quickly.
  • If you’re living with HIV and also have hepatitis B, your viral load is likely to increase because your immune system is weaker. This will make you more likely to pass on HIV if you have sex without a condom.
  • If you’re living with HIV, your healthcare professional should give you regular hepatitis B tests and regularly check your liver.
  • If you’re taking antiretrovirals, it’s important to discuss with your doctor how treatment for hepatitis B may interact with your HIV drugs.

If you’re living with HIV or at risk of HIV, for example, if you’re a man who has sex with men, sell sex or use drugs, ask your healthcare professional if you should have a hepatitis B vaccination.

If you’re worried about HIV infection, find out everything you need to know in our HIV Transmission and Prevention section

How do I protect myself against hepatitis B?

  • Practise safer sex:
    • Know the status of any sexual partner.
    • Use a new male or female condom or dental dam every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex.
    • Use a new dental dam or latex gloves for rimming and fingering (exploring your partner’s anus with your fingers, mouth or tongue) or use latex gloves for fisting.
    • Cover sex toys with a new condom and wash them after use.
    • Never share needles and syringes or other items that may be contaminated with blood, such as razors, toothbrushes and manicure tools (even old or dried blood can contain the virus).
    • Only have tattoos, body piercings or acupuncture in a professional setting, and ensure that new, sterile needles are used.
    • Have the hepatitis B vaccine (where available) if you are in a high-risk group (for example, you inject drugs, are a sex worker, are a man who has sex with men, change partners frequently, are in close contact with someone who has chronic hepatitis B, or your occupation exposes you to the virus, for example, a nurse). This immunisation is also recommended for infants born to mothers who have the virus and people living with HIV.

Note – apart from condoms, other types of contraception – such as the contraceptive pill offer no protection against sexually transmitted infections.

Ask your healthcare professional if you need further advice on how to protect yourself and your partner(s) from HIV and other STIs.

What do hepatitis B symptoms look like?

Many people with hepatitis B don’t have any symptoms. If you do get symptoms you may not notice them until two or three months after infection and they will last up to three months. There can be two stages of infection: acute and chronic.

For women and men acute (or short-term) symptoms include:

  • flu-like symptoms, including tiredness, fever and aches and pains
  • feeling and/or being sick
  • loss of weight/appetite
  • diarrhoea
  • tummy (abdominal) pain
  • jaundice, meaning your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow
  • dark urine (pee)
  • pale faeces (poo).

For people who can’t fight off the infection (for example, babies, young children and people with a weakened immune system because of HIV) the virus can move to the chronic stage. This is when people are at higher risk of liver failure, liver disease and cancer of the liver, but may be unaware of the dangers as symptoms can take years to develop.

Can I get tested for hepatitis B?

Yes – a simple blood test carried out by a healthcare professional will show whether you have the virus. You may also be given extra tests to see if your liver is damaged.

If you’ve got hepatitis B you should be tested for other STIs. It’s important that you tell your recent sexual partner/s so they can also get tested and treated. Many people who have hepatitis B don’t notice anything wrong, and by telling them you can help to stop the virus being passed on; and it can also stop you from getting the infection again.

How is hepatitis B treated?

There is no specific treatment for acute hepatitis B, and most people recover within one to two months. Usually, you can manage symptoms at home with painkillers if necessary. Your healthcare professional should advise you to have regular blood tests and physical check-ups. Most people make a full recovery from acute hepatitis B.

If you develop chronic hepatitis B you’ll be given treatment to reduce the risk of permanent liver damage and liver cancer. Treatment does not cure chronic hepatitis B and most people who start treatment need to continue on it for life.

Whether you have symptoms or not, don’t have sex until your heathcare professional says you can.

Once you’ve had acute hepatitis B, you’re immune – which means you can’t get it again – but you can get other types such as hepatitis A and C.

Complications of hepatitis B

  • As with most STIs, hepatitis B puts you at risk of other STIs, including HIV.
  • Without treatment a pregnant woman with hepatitis B can pass it on to her unborn baby.
  • Without treatment, chronic hepatitis B can cause scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), which can cause the liver to stop working properly; a small number of people with cirrhosis develop liver cancer; and these complications can lead to death. Other than a liver transplant, there is no cure for cirrhosis. However, treatments can help relieve some of the symptoms.

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By Christine Kukka

I thought hepatitis B was sexually transmitted? I just tested positive, but my partner tested negative, we’ve been together for years, what gives?

This question is a common one. Hepatitis B is indeed easily transmitted sexually, so why do some people — who were not vaccinated — never get hepatitis B from their sexual partners?

It comes down to variables, such as the type of sexual activity you engage in, the viral load (HBV DNA) of the infected partner, and who is on the receiving end of infectious body fluids, especially blood that contains the most virus and semen.

Having one partner infected, and other not, can add more stress to an already traumatic hepatitis B diagnosis. “It was very confusing and made me question how was it possible I was the only one infected,” said a woman who tested positive while her husband tested negative. “I thought it was possibly a mistake, maybe I was a biological anomaly, which of course I was not.”

Let’s look at the factors that affect who gets infected and who doesn’t when two people have sex.

Viral load: Semen, vaginal fluids and blood all contain the hepatitis B virus (HBV), and the higher the viral load, the more infectious one’s blood and body fluids are. However, having an undetectable viral load doesn’t mean you won’t infected someone during unsafe sex. Even if a man has an undetectable viral load, studies show his semen still contains some HBV and can spread infection, though the risk is lower.

So the rule here is if a man tests positive for the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), he must consider himself infectious.

The role of gender: In heterosexual relationships, uninfected women are at higher risk of getting infected by a male partner infected with hepatitis B, than the reverse. Women are on the receiving end of semen, which greatly increases their risk of becoming infected unless a condom is used.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

When a woman is infected with hepatitis B, an uninfected man is at risk through direct contact with her vaginal secretions, but that contact is lower-risk than a woman’s direct exposure to infectious semen during intercourse.

However, an infected woman who is menstruating is more likely to spread hepatitis B because blood can contain higher levels of HBV than vaginal secretions. That is why gloves and dental dams are recommended to provide a barrier against exposure.

The type of sexual activity: Certain sexual activities are far more efficient at spreading hepatitis B than others. Oral sex appears to have a lower rate of hepatitis B transmission than vaginal sex. Anal sex carries a very high risk of transmission because of tears in the skin that can occur during penetration improves transmission of HBV.

Fingering carries a lesser risk, unless the infected woman is menstruating or a person has bruises or cuts on their hands that allow entry to hepatitis B in semen or vaginal fluids, then gloves are recommended.

The “uninfected” partner could already have been infected and cleared hepatitis B: When a person is first diagnosed with hepatitis B, doctors often test his or her partner for only the hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), which indicates a current hepatitis B infection. If they are negative for HBsAg, they are immediately vaccinated.

If the partner isn’t also tested for the hepatitis B surface antibody (anti-HBs or HBsAb), then no one knows if the individual was infected years ago (or earlier in the relationship) with hepatitis B and cleared the acute infection.

Hepatitis B is not called the “silent” infection for nothing — many people who get hepatitis B never have any symptoms and never realize they were infected. As a result, a wife, husband, partner or lover who tested negative for HBsAg, may actually have been infected in the past and cleared the infection and now has protective hepatitis B surface antibodies to forever safeguard them from infection. If they’re immediately vaccinated and retested after the three-dose vaccination, they will test positive for surface antibodies, without ever knowing that their antibodies resulted from a past infection, not immunization.

Bottom line, if one of you have been diagnosed and the other is not infected, it is unusual but not uncommon. Get tested and immediately vaccinated if the uninfected partner tests negative for the hepatitis B surface antibody.

Take a quiz to find out how much you know about hepatitis B transmission: click here.

It’s widely known that viral hepatitis can spread though consuming contaminated food or sharing dirty hypodermic needles. But the liver-destroying disease can also sometimes be spread through sexual contact. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself.

How many kinds of viral hepatitis are there?

Scientists have identified at least five types of viral hepatitis that lead to liver problems. In the U.S., the main threats are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.

Can all types be spread by sexual contact?

Hepatitis A spreads via fecal-oral contact, which can occur if there is direct oral-anal contact or contact with fingers or objects that have been in or near the anus of an infected person. If even a microscopic amount of virus-laden feces gets into the mouth, infection potentially can result.

Hepatitis B (HBV) is 50 to 100 times easier to transmit sexually than HIV ( the virus that causes AIDS). HBV has been found in vaginal secretions, saliva, and semen. Oral sex and especially anal sex, whether it occurs in a heterosexual or homosexual context, are possible ways of transmitting the virus. It is not transmitted by holding hands, hugging, or even dry kissing on the lips. The chance of transmission with deep kissing is unknown, as no infections have been definitively documented after exposure to infected saliva. Yet, since HBV has been found in saliva, the risk of transmission with deep kissing probably exists and the risk increases if one partner wears orthodontic braces or has open cuts or sores in the mouth. The likelihood of becoming infected with HBV grows with the number of sexual partners a person has. Thus, promiscuous individuals are more likely to get HBV.

Hepatitis C (HCV) is spread through contact with an infected person’s blood — which may be present because of genital sores or cuts or menstruation.HCV has been detected with greater-than-average frequency among people who have a history of sexual promiscuity — which can be defined as a history of a sexually transmitted disease, sex with a prostitute, more than five sexual partners per year, or a combination of these. A person who is in a long-term monogamous relationship with an HCV-infected person rarely contracts this virus. Only approximately 2% of sexual partners of HCV-infected people also test positive for HCV. However, it is important to note that this statistic is based on indirect evidence only. Therefore, whether these people became infected through a sexual act or by another route is unclear. For example, people in long-standing relationships generally care for one another in times of illness or injury. During such times, HCV may be transmitted to the spouse or partner, because the couple may not be as cautious about avoiding contact with blood.

Facts About Hepatitis B for Adults

Hepatitis B is a serious liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The virus can affect people of all ages. Once infected, some people carry the virus their whole lives. This is called “chronic” infection and it can lead to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and death. The virus is found in the blood and body fluids of infected people. It is most often spread among adults through sexual contact, by sharing needles and other drug paraphernalia, or from an HBV-infected mother to her newborn during birth. HBV can also be spread through normal household contact with HBV-infected people.

Hepatitis B is incurable. A safe, effective vaccine has been available since the 1980s. Vaccination can help protect individuals and contribute to the elimination of this highly infectious disease.

Vaccine safety
Hepatitis B vaccine is safe and effective. You cannot get hepatitis B from the vaccine. The most common side effect of the vaccine is soreness at the injection site. As with any medicine, there are very small risks that serious problems could occur after getting the vaccine. However, the potential risks associated with hepatitis B disease are much greater than the potential risks associated with the hepatitis B vaccine.

Disease and vaccine facts

  • FACT: Hepatitis B virus infection can be prevented with a safe and effective vaccine. You cannot get hepatitis B from the hepatitis B vaccine.
  • FACT: The hepatitis B vaccine prevents liver cancer.
  • FACT: An estimated 800,000 to 1.4 million people in the US have chronic HBV infection.
  • FACT: Adults age 19 through 59 with diabetes are twice as likely as those without diabetes to develop acute hepatitis B infection.
  • FACT: HBV infection kills about 2,000 to 4,000 people in the US each year, usually as the result of complications from liver disease.
  • FACT: Hepatitis B infections have declined substantially since 1991 when a strategy to eliminate HBV transmission through immunization was started.
  • FACT: More than 50 percent of new hepatitis B cases could be prevented if hepatitis B vaccination were routinely offered to everyone attending sexually transmitted disease clinics and to all correctional facility inmates.
  • FACT: Even if a person infected with hepatitis B virus does not feel sick, he or she can still infect others.
  • FACT: Hepatitis B infection can result in chronic (life-long) infection that increases a person’s risk of developing chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis and liver cancer.
  • FACT: Hepatitis B virus is found in blood and other body fluids such as semen and vaginal secretions.
  • FACT: The hepatitis B virus is 100 times more infectious than HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
  • FACT: Hepatitis B is a sexually-transmitted disease but can also be transmitted during normal household contact with an infected person.
  • FACT: Infants born to hepatitis B-infected women have a very high chance of getting the infection from their mothers unless they receive their first hepatitis B vaccination and immune globulin (IG) at birth.

Additional Resources

Shareable infographic describing who is at risk for hepatitis B

There is no specific treatment for hepatitis A infection, but hepatitis A vaccine can prevent HAV infection

30-second radio public service announcement

What you need to know about hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is an infection caused by a virus that can be transmitted during sex, by sharing equipment to use drugs and through household contact with someone who has hepatitis B. The virus infects the liver. Most people recover from the infection on their own, while some develop a permanent (chronic) infection. Treatment can help with symptoms and keep a chronic infection under control. There are many ways to lower the chance of getting or passing on hepatitis B, including getting vaccinated.

The words we use here – CATIE is committed to using language that is relevant to everyone. People use different terms to describe their bodies. This text uses medical terms, such as vagina and penis, to describe genitals. Other people may use other terms, such as private parts or dick or front hole. CATIE acknowledges and respects that people use words that they are most comfortable with.

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is an infection of the liver caused by the hepatitis B virus. A person with hepatitis B can pass it on to another person during sex, when sharing equipment to use drugs and through household contact with someone living with hepatitis B.

Many people with hepatitis B have no symptoms, so they don’t know they have an infection. When symptoms do occur, they can take 2 to 3 months to appear. Common symptoms include:

  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite, nausea and/or vomiting
  • joint and/or abdominal discomfort or pain
  • yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • rash
  • dark urine (pee)

Most adults will recover from an acute hepatitis B infection without treatment. If the virus has been in the blood for more than 6 months, it is considered a permanent (or chronic) hepatitis B infection. About 15 to 40% of individuals develop chronic hepatitis B. Chronic hepatitis B, if left untreated, can cause serious liver injury and increase the chance of liver cancer.

Could I get hepatitis B?

In Canada, hepatitis B is most commonly passed on during sex without a condom; this includes vaginal intercourse and anal intercourse. Anyone who is sexually active, including people who experience sexual violence, can get hepatitis B this way.

Hepatitis B can also be passed on through:

  • sharing equipment to use drugs
  • sharing sex toys or during a hand job or fingering

Because the virus can survive outside the body for several days, hepatitis B can also be passed:

  • between household members who share toothbrushes, razors or nail files
  • via improperly sterilized tools for tattooing, body piercing, acupuncture or electrolysis
  • among health professionals through improper handling of medical and dental equipment

Hepatitis B and HIV

For people with HIV, untreated chronic hepatitis B infection may result in serious liver-related problems. Talk to your doctor to be sure that you are getting treatment for both HIV and hepatitis B.

Because HIV and hepatitis B share the same transmission routes, someone with hepatitis B is at greater risk of getting HIV. Co-infection with HIV and hepatitis B does not affect the progression of HIV or HIV treatment.

What can I do?

Prevent infection

The most effective way to prevent hepatitis B is to get the vaccine, especially for individuals with HIV.

To lower the chance of getting or passing on hepatitis B during sex:

  • use a condom during vaginal intercourse and anal intercourse
  • use condoms on sex toys and condoms or oral dams for oral sex

The chance of passing hepatitis B in other ways can be lowered by:

  • not sharing drug equipment, including syringes, needles, cookers, filters, water, swabs, pipes and straws
  • not sharing personal items that have come into contact with bodily fluids or blood, such as toothbrushes, dental floss, razors, nail clippers, glucometers, needles, bandages and feminine hygiene products

Get tested

The only way to know for sure whether or not you have hepatitis B is to get tested. A doctor or nurse can do the test. A simple blood test will reveal if you currently have hepatitis B, if you have had hepatitis B in the past or if you have already received the vaccine.

It is a good idea to get tested for other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, when you get tested for hepatitis B. Talk to your healthcare provider about how often you should test for STIs.

If you are diagnosed with hepatitis B, a public health nurse will talk to you about informing your sex partners, as well as others who may have been in contact with your blood or bodily fluids (people you live with or health care professionals who have cared for you), that they might have been exposed to hepatitis B and encouraging them to get tested. Your identity will not be revealed.

Get treated

Acute hepatitis B infections are not usually treated with medication. Once the acute infection clears, you have immunity from getting hepatitis B again.

Chronic hepatitis B infection is treated with antiviral medications. These medications help to put the disease into remission and greatly lower the chance of liver cancer.

Getting the hepatitis B vaccine gives you immunity, which will prevent you from getting hepatitis B in the future.

If you have chronic hepatitis B, there are many things you can do to take care of your liver. Visit www.catie.ca for info on taking care of your liver.

Credits

This information sheet was developed in partnership with the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (SIECCAN).

Resource

Hepatitis B – CATIE fact sheet

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