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Can Hepatitis C Be Contracted Sexually

Prevention And The Treatment Potential

How Is Hepatitis Transmitted?

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent HCV infection. However, the recent availability of DAA for the treatment of chronic HCV with cures rates over 95% has created optimism towards HCV elimination. In many countries treatment is now available for all individuals with a chronic HCV infection, irrespective of fibrosis stage . Modelling studies were the first to demonstrate that rapid scaleup of DAA might limit onward transmission and chronic HCV prevalence and incidence among MSM could decline , , . However, for substantial reductions a decline in risk behaviour is needed as the scaleup of DAA is counterbalanced by ongoing risk behaviour, resulting in initial and reinfections , , . In addition, early treatment, including treatment of acute infection, might further reduce HCV incidence , . As treatment is costly and treatment uptake varies considerably across countries , effective behavioural interventions for MSM at risk of infection are urgently needed. Qualitative research among HIVpositive MSM with a cured HCV infection in the preDAA era showed that the strongest motive to implement risk reduction strategies was the reward of avoiding HCV retreatment and its side effects , but this may have changed with the less burdensome DAA treatment. Also sexual risk norms within the MSM population, HCV stigma and nondisclosure of HCV status forms barriers to safer sex, and drug use directly impedes the selfefficacy of MSM to take risk reduction measures .

Sharing Personal Care Items

The chances of spreading hepatitis C within your household are low but possible. To be safe, don’t share personal care items that could be contaminated with blood, Lee says. These include razors, toothbrushes, cuticle scissors, and nail clippers.

In addition, be mindful when you go to nail salons or barbershops, where the same tools are used on all customers. A study published in the November-December 2014 issue of the Journal of Public Health Management & Practice found that while regulations to safeguard the public exist in most states, it’s unknown how many businesses comply with them. Ask about tool-sterilization procedures before you frequent these establishments. You can also bring your own nail care supplies.

How Do You Test For Hepatitis C

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

If youve got hepatitis C 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 C do not notice anything wrong, and by telling them you can help to stop the virus being passed on. It can also stop you from getting the infection again.

Also Check: Hepatitis C And Liver Damage

Encouraging Others To Get Tested For Hepatitis C

While the odds of passing on the hepatitis C virus are low, you should still tell anyone at risk that you have hepatitis C. You should tell sexual partners, spouses, and family members. Your infection may be difficult to discuss, but anyone at potential risk must know. That way, they can get tested and treated if needed. Read more on why you should get tested for hepatitis C.

Show Sources

Paul Berk, MD, professor of medicine and emeritus chief of the division of liver disease, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York City chairman of the board, American Liver Foundation.

Alan Franciscus, executive director, Hepatitis C Support Project and editor-in-chief of HCV Advocate, San Francisco.

Thelma King Thiel, chair and CEO, Hepatitis Foundation International.

David Thomas, MD, professor of medicine, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore.

Howard J. Worman, MD, associate professor of medicine and anatomy and cell biology, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York City.

The American Gastroenterological Association.

What Is Hepatitis C

Ask the Experts: Can HCV be Transmitted Through Sex?

The term hepatitis means an inflammation of the liver. The inflammation may damage the liver, which is the largest internal organ in the body. The liver filters the blood and breaks down harmful substances.

Infection with a virus is the most common cause of hepatitis. If a person contracts HCV, the disease is called hepatitis C, or hep C for short.

Hepatitis A and hepatitis B are other types of hepatitis that result from viral infection. Hepatitis A, B, and C differ in the way they spread, their effect on the liver, and their method of treatment, according to the

HCV causes hepatitis C. A person may contract HCV by coming into contact with the blood of someone else who has the condition. Even microscopic amounts of blood may be enough to spread the virus.

In the United States, the way for someone to contract hepatitis C is by sharing drug-injection equipment, such as needles or syringes.

According to the , other ways a person may contract hepatitis C include:

  • coming into contact with the open sores or blood of a person with the condition
  • using the toothbrush, nail clippers, or razor of a person with the condition
  • getting a tattoo or piercing with non-sterile instruments or inks
  • getting an accidental stick with a needle from someone with hepatitis C

About 6% of babies born to people with hepatitis C will develop hepatitis C.

Sometimes an individual will experience symptoms 13 months after contracting HCV, according to

Read Also: How Did I Get Hepatitis

Hepatitis C : Can It Be Sexually Transmitted

DOCTOR’S VIEWS ARCHIVE

Topic: Hepatitis C, June 2000

Dr. Lee:Who are at increased risk of getting hepatitis C? Can hepatitis C be transmitted sexually?

Dr. Edward Block:Blood transfusion used to be a major risk factor. Fortunately, as a result of the increased stringency requirements, blood transfusions are no longer a major risk factor in this country. So, our viewers should know that if they should ever require a blood transfusion, they should feel fairly secure because the risk for hepatitis C exposure from blood transfusion is very small.

At this time, the principal risk for acquiring hepatitis C appears to be the use of injection drugs, primarily IV drug abuse. IV drug users comprise upwards of 40% of those who are diagnosed with new cases of hepatitis C. Other high-risk activities include other drug use . People with multiple sex partners are also considered to be at high risk .

Dr. Lee:As opposed to, let’s say, sexual transmission of Hepatitis B.

Dr. Edward Block: Yes, as opposed to hepatitis B, the risk of sexual transmission of hepatitis C is small.

There is probably some small risk of sexual transmission here and certainly it would be prudent to tell our viewers that if they are known to be hepatitis C positive and are single that they should take appropriate precautions, such as the use of condoms.

People receiving tattoos are also felt to be at risk, particularly if needles have been reused.

Back to Doctors’ Dialogue Index

Tips For Safe Sex With Hepatitis

  • 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 . Consider sharing your hepatitis diagnosis with your partner or partners, and find out more about their sexual history.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • When its time, find a private place where you can talk to your partner without interruption.

    Also Check: List Of Hepatitis C Medications

    What To Know About Hepatitis C During Oral And Anal Sex

    Oral sex does not pose an increased risk of transmitting the hepatitis C virus, according to the American Liver Foundation, unless there are open sores or cuts in the mouth. To be safe, however, the CDC recommends using a new latex condom whenever you have oral sex to reduce the risk of transmitting hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections like HIV.

    Anal sex is high-risk, though, because rectal tissue is fragile and can easily tear when manipulated or pushed to expand. If the tissue tears and bleeds, theres a chance for blood-to-blood contact. For this reason, its best to always use a condom during anal sex. Its also important to liberally apply water- or silicone-based lubricant to keep anal tissue and condoms from tearing.

    If you use sex toys, it may be safest to avoid sharing them. If youre engaging in rough sex that results in skin tears, even tiny traces of infected blood that remain on a toy can pass through openings in the skin although the risk of spreading bloodborne diseases remains very low. Whats more, the human papilloma virus has been transmitted via sex toys, even after cleaning.

    Epidemiology Of Sexually Transmitted Hcv

    What is Hepatitis C? | How is Hepatitis C Transmitted?

    2.1.1. Trends in HCV infections in HIVpositive and negative MSM

    2.1.2. Molecular epidemiology

    Molecular epidemiology is increasingly used to identify clusters and transmission pathways in rapidly evolving pathogens such as HIV and HCV. The main aim of these molecular approaches was to aid the public health response by identifying factors of the epidemic, such as hotspots or emerging clusters, otherwise missed.

    2.1.3. Risk factors for acquiring sexually transmitted HCV

    Finally, studies consistently show that biological factors might play a role: confection with STI, HIV1 infection in itself, a lower CD4 cell count and higher HIV RNA levels are associated with an increased risk of incident HCV infection , , , . These factors might affect the mucosal microenvironment and activate specific immune cells within mucosal tissues, which would allow HCV entry and retention.

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    Sharing Toothbrushes Scissors And Razors

    There’s a potential risk that hepatitis C may be passed on through sharing items such as toothbrushes, razors and scissors, as they can become contaminated with infected blood.

    Equipment used by hairdressers, such as scissors and clippers, can pose a risk if it has been contaminated with infected blood and not sterilised or cleaned between customers. However, most salons operate to high standards, so this risk is low.

    Is Hepatitis C Sexually Transmitted

    Can hepatitis C be spread through sexual contact?

    Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease caused by the hepatitis C virus . The disease can be passed from person to person.

    As with many infections, HCV lives in blood and bodily fluids. You can contract hepatitis C by coming into direct contact with an infected persons blood. It can also be transmitted by contact with bodily fluids including saliva or semen of an infected person, but this is rare.

    Researchers in found that 1 out of every 190,000 instances of heterosexual sexual contact led to HCV transmission. Participants in the study were in monogamous sexual relationships.

    HCV may be more likely to spread through sexual contact if you:

    • have multiple sexual partners
    • participate in rough sex, which is more likely to result in broken skin or bleeding
    • dont use barrier protection, such as condoms or dental dams
    • dont use barrier protection properly
    • have a sexually transmitted infection or HIV

    Theres no evidence that HCV can be spread through oral sex. However, it may still be possible if blood is present from either the person giving or receiving oral sex.

    For example, a slight risk may exist if any of the following are present:

    • menstrual blood
    • genital warts
    • any other breaks in the skin in the involved areas

    Though sexual transmission is rare overall, HCV may be more likely to spread through anal sex than oral sex. This is because rectal tissue is more likely to tear during intercourse.

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    Ways You Wont Spread Hepatitis C

    There are some ways in which you wont spread HCV, though. Go ahead and let your significant other have a bite of your sandwich or dessert. According to the CDC, hepatitis C isnt spread by sharing silverware or drinking glasses, or through water or foods. Showing affection by holding hands, hugging, or kissing is also safe, Lee says. And although germs from sneezing or coughing might cause you to get a cold, they wont give you hepatitis C.

    Poor Infection Control For Tattooing And Piercing

    Sex and Intimacy with Hepatitis C

    The notes that HCV may be transmitted by receiving tattoos or piercings from unregulated settings with poor infection control standards.

    Commercially licensed tattooing and piercing businesses are generally thought to be safe.

    More informal settings may not have adequate safeguards to help avoid the spread of infections. Receiving a tattoo or piercing in settings such as in a prison or in a home with friends carries a of HCV transmission

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    How Do You Get Hepatitis B

    Hepatitis B is really contagious. Its transmitted through contact with semen , vaginal fluids, and blood. You can get it from:

    • having vaginal, anal, or oral sex

    • sharing toothbrushes and razors

    • sharing needles for shooting drugs, piercings, tattoos, etc.

    • getting stuck with a needle that has the Hep B virus on it.

    Hepatitis B can also be passed to babies during birth if their mother has it.

    Hepatitis B isnt spread through saliva , so you CANT get hepatitis B from sharing food or drinks or using the same fork or spoon. Hepatitis B is also not spread through kissing, hugging, holding hands, coughing, sneezing, or breastfeeding.

    General Tips For Prevention

    Refrain from engaging in IV drug use and be cautious with all procedures that involve needles.

    For example, you shouldnt share needles used for tattooing, piercing, or acupuncture. The equipment should always be carefully sterilized for safety. If youre undergoing any of these procedures in another country, always make sure the equipment is sterilized.

    Sterile equipment should also be used in a medical or dental setting.

    Recommended Reading: What Is The Treatment For Autoimmune Hepatitis

    How Do You Treat Hepatitis C

    People with acute infection do not always need treatment, because their immune system may clear hepatitis C on its own. If you test positive during the acute stage, your doctor may ask you to come back after a few months to re-test and to see if you need any treatment.

    If people develop chronic infection, they will need treatment to help clear the virus. Where available, treatment with drugs called direct-acting antivirals can cure hepatitis in most cases. These are usually taken for 8-12 weeks. Your doctor will also check your liver for any damage.

    If youve had hepatitis C in the past, youre not immune to future infections which means you can get it again. You can also still get other types of hepatitis, and having hepatitis C together with another type is more serious.

    If youve already had hepatitis C, its advisable to have the vaccination against hepatitis A and B to protect your liver from further damage.

    Whether you have symptoms or not, dont have sex until your healthcare professional says you can.

    Articles On Hepatitis C

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    If you’ve just been diagnosed with hepatitis C, you may wonder how you got it and worry about passing on the virus to a loved one. If you’ve had the disease for a long time without knowing it, you could dwell on every little incident in the past where you might have accidentally exposed a family member to the disease.

    It’s important to remember that hepatitis C isn’t easy to catch. If you take a few precautions, it’s almost impossible to pass on the disease to someone else.

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    Men Who Have Sex With Men

    In a nutshell, there is an increased risk of sexual transmission for men who have sex with men .

    It is estimated that up to 5 per cent of gay men and men who have sex with other men have hep C, compared with 1 per cent of the general population. Around 13 per cent of people with HIV in Australia also have hep C.

    Among men who have sex with men, the risk of hep C being transmitted is higher if one or more partners has HIV, or if the sex involves blood-to-blood contact, of if they have other STIs, or if recreational drugs are used.

    To reduce the risks:

    • use condoms and lots of lube for anal sex
    • wear gloves and use lots of lube for fisting
    • use condoms on toys and change them between partners, or wash toys with hot soapy water and dry them between partners
    • if affected by alcohol or recreational drugs, your judgement around risks will be impaired and youll have decreased inhibitions so take special care to avoid blood-to-blood contact.

    Some men choose not to use condoms when having sex with other men who believe they have the same HIV status. This is called sero-sorting and can further increase peoples risk of contracting hep C.

    For more information about anything in this factsheet, phone the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 803 990.

    Do Women Have A Higher Risk Of Getting Infected With Hepatitis Through Sexual Contact

    Sex does not determine the risk of being infected with hepatitis through sexual contact. The presence of behavioral and other risk factors may make a person vulnerable to getting hepatitis by sexual contact. Some studies, however, suggest that it is easier for a man to transmit HCV to a woman than vice versa. Furthermore, MSM are 10 to 15 times more at risk of getting infected with hepatitis B than the general population.

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