Men's Health Week: Hepatitis
Publish Date: 08/06/2012
Men's Health Week: Hepatitis
The three main types of Hepatitis in the UK are A, B and C.
Hepatitis A will usually clear up by itself, and is usually spread by contact with the faecal matter of an infected person. The period of illness can vary, but is usually a couple of months, and can be serious enough for time to be taken off work.
Hepatitis B is present in saliva, blood, semen and vaginal fluids, and can be spread sexually. Some people infected with Hepatitis B will fight off the virus after a short period of illness (usually a few months) but others can go on to develop a chronic condition which can cause complications.
It is thought that Hepatitis B affects approximately one in 1,000 people. Hepatitis C is mainly spread by blood to-blood contact. It is thought that approximately 250,000 people are infected with Hepatitis C in the UK and about eight out of 10 may be unaware of this. Vaccines are available for hepatitis A and B, and there are treatments for Hepatitis C (although there are quite serious side effects).
People react differently to hepatitis; some people will clear the infection themselves (particularly with Hepatitis A & B), whereas others might go on to develop more serious liver conditions.
Hepatitis C is unpredictable. About one in five people will rid themselves of the virus naturally in a few months, other people may never develop any serious liver complications, and others can go on to develop problems over many years of infection including liver scarring (cirrhosis), liver failure or even cancer.
Impact/evidence on LGB people
Hepatitis A can be vaccinated against; however, this is unlikely to be free of charge.
Most sexually-active gay and bisexual men should be offered a vaccination against Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B is 100 to 1,000 times more contagious than HIV.
Some gay and bisexual men will not be aware that they are at risk of Hepatitis B, or that a vaccine is available. Any MSM who are immunised against Hepatitis B should be fully informed that they need to complete a course of injections so that the vaccine works properly.
It has been long established that Hepatitis A and B can be transmitted between men who have sex with men (MSM), whereas it used to be thought that Hepatitis C was mainly passed on through blood-to-blood contact, or during sex that increased the likelihood of blood being shared.
However, there is more and more evidence that shows that Hepatitis C is being transmitted sexually, particularly amongst men who have HIV. Hepatitis C /HIV co-infection is causing problems for a large number of HIV-positive MSMs.
The presence of HIV is known to speed up the damage caused to the liver by hepatitis.
How is your GP?
The LGF is currently running a survey on Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual peoples experiences of their GPs. What we aim to build with your help through this survey is an accurate picture of current healthcare provision by GPs for LGB people which will then form part of a strategy to make sure that GPs are better equipped to acknowledge the needs of their LGB patients. If your are LGB and live in the UK please take 5 minutes to complete this survey by visiting www.lgf.org.uk/gpexperiences
Referrals/support organisations for hepatitis
The Lesbian & Gay Foundation
0845 3 30 30 30
George House Trust
0161 274 4499
The British Liver Trust
0800 652 7330
Terrence Higgins Trust