The A.B.C of Hepatitis

Publish Date: 23/07/2012

Hepatitis kills around one million people every year and millions more suffer immediate sickness or long-term ill health. 

Hepatitis can be caused by viruses; the three most common types of hepatitis, A, B, C arecaused by viruses. However long-term alcohol abuse the use of certain types of drugs, and unprotected sexual activity can also pass on the viruses.

Hepatitis A and B are preventable by a short course of injections, which gives protection over several years. Gay men can get the Hep B vaccination at sexual health clinics. Some clinics also offer vaccination against hepatitis A. Since a significant number of gay men are hepatitis B carriers, being vaccinated is highly recommended. There are no vaccines available against hepatitis C.

Hepatitis A is generally caused by poor hygiene or from contaminated food and water, many people pick it up whilst they’re on holiday. It can also be passed on through rimming, fisting and sharing dildos.

If you get any symptoms, they may include: diarrhoea, fever, tiredness, aches and pains, jaundice, dark urine and pale stools or weight loss.

A simple blood test is carried out to detect the presence of the infection.

There is no current treatment for Hep A, but the body is usually able to overcome the infection. You should rest and avoid alcohol whilst your body fights off the infection.

You can get vaccinated against Hep A at your local sexual health clinic. It’s free of charge and will protect you for around five years.

Hepatitis B is usually found in blood and semen and can be passed on through unprotected oral, anal and vaginal sex and rimming. It is also found in saliva and urine, but is less likely to be passed on this way.

A lot of people won’t have any symptoms, but they will be quite similar to Hep A if noticed.

A simple blood test is carried out to detect the presence of the infection.

There are treatments available for Hep B, but they’re generally only given to people with a chronic infection. It is recommended to rest and avoid alcohol and paracetamol to avoid putting stress on your liver whilst the body overcomes the infection.

You can get vaccinated against Hep B at your local sexual health clinic. It’s free of charge and will protect you for around five years

Hepatitis C is usually passed on through blood and is common amongst injecting drug users but can be passed on sexually. The virus can also be picked up by sharing toothbrushes and razors with an infected person.

Most people with Hep C won’t have any noticeable symptoms; the only way to know for sure if you have the infection is to get a blood test. A recent report from The National AIDS Trust called for raised awareness of the risks posed by hepatitis C to gay men living with HIV.

There is no cure for Hep C, but there are long-term treatments available. These drugs don’t always work and may come with side effects.

Infections among gay men are largely thought to be from unprotected anal sex, fisting, use of sex toys, group sex and drug use.

Using condoms and water-based lube for anal sex; gloves for fisting and fingering; and dental dams for rimming; can help prevent the infection from being passed on. You should also avoid sharing needles, sex toys, razors or toothbrushes with someone who has the infection.

To find out more on testing: www.lgf.org.uk/testing

Other Useful links:

http://www.worldhepatitisalliance.org/worldhepatitisday2011.aspx

http://www.hepctrust.org.uk/

http://www.greatermanchesterhepc.com/