Hepatitis is a general term meaning inflammation of the liver which can be caused by various factors.
Gay and bisexual men must be aware of Hepatitis A, B and C which are all caused by a virus and can be transmitted sexually. They are spread through blood, semen (cum) or other body fluids and can be spread through unprotected anal sex, oral sex or by sharing needles to inject drugs. Hepatitis A is spread through minute traces of faeces entering your body, which may occur during rimming.
Depending on the type of hepatitis, the severity can range from mild to severe to chronic. Some people will not have any symptoms and a few will suffer serious liver damage.
Hepatitis is particularly dangerous for people who are HIV positive.
Many people with hepatitis do not develop any symptoms. Symptoms, if they do appear, are similar for all types of hepatitis and can make you feel very ill. Symptoms may include the following:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes)
- Fatigue (feeling tired)
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dark urine
- Grey coloured stool (faeces)
- Abdominal pain
￼What Can You Do?
- Your best defence against hepatitis, like all other sexually transmitted infections, is to reduce your number of sexual partners and to always use condoms and water-based lubricant for anal sex.
- If you inject drugs, never share a needle with anyone else.
- You can be vaccinated against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B by your private doctor (public clinics do not provide this service). The vaccines are safe and effective, and require 2 to 3 doses within a six-month period depending on the type of vaccine used. You must receive the complete course of injections.
- There is no vaccine against Hepatitis C.