WHAT IS IT?
Hepatitis refers to viral infections of the liver that are often transmitted sexually among men who have sex with men. There are several types of hepatitis, but here we will discuss the most common types, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
Hepatitis A is a type of hepatitis that is passed between people by a fecal/oral route, i.e. getting poop from an infected person into your mouth such as through rimming (butt licking) or ingesting contaminated food (this can happen when people preparing food do not wash their hands after using the bathroom).
Hepatitis B is a type of hepatitis viral infection that is highly contagious and usually contracted through sexual activity with an infected partner or through contact with the bodily fluids of someone with Hep B.
Hepatitis C is more difficult to acquire than other types of hepatitis and is most commonly transmitted through blood to blood contact (such as might happen when sharing needles during injection drug use).
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Symptoms of Hepatitis A, B, and C are similar and can vary in severity from person to person. In general, symptoms of the three types can include: fatigue, sometime so severe it is hard to get out of bed, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting that gets worse as the day progresses, and loss of desire to smoke cigarettes. Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice) is also common as well as darker urine than normal. Dull pain in the upper abdomen may also be a sign of Hep. A infection.
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
Hepatitis infections can make you very sick and even lead to death, but they can often be treated if you seek medical attention.
DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
A doctor can do a blood test for Hepatitis A. Treatment is often “supportive”, which means you will be monitored by a doctor. Sometimes people infected with Hepatitis A must be hospitalized to control the symptoms and the disease usually lasts from 6-8 weeks. Until the disease runs its course, you cannot drink alcohol.
Although most people eventually recover, Hepatitis B attacks your liver and can put you in the hospital and is sometimes fatal. Roughly 5-10% of people with healthy immune systems who are infected can develop chronic active Hepatitis B, which continues damaging the liver and can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and death. In people infected with HIV or who have other immune disorders, Hepatitis B becomes chronic almost 90% of the time.
Hepatitis C is more difficult to get than Hep A or B, but is incurable in most people and there is currently no vaccine against Hepatitis C. About 90% of people with Hep C develop chronic infection and continue to be infectious to others. Hepatitis C infection can increase the risk of liver cancer, liver failure and even death. Becoming infected with two types of Hepatitis at the same time, (Hep A, B or C), can speed up the rate of liver damage so anyone infected with Hep C should be vaccinated against Hepatitis A and B.
HOW DO YOU GET IT?
Hepatitis A is transmitted by fecal/oral route. Rimming, as well as putting your fingers in your mouth after playing with someone’s ass or touching a used condom can cause you to become infected with Hepatitis A. Kissing someone with Hepatitis A can also infect you. You can also get it from fecal mater in raw shellfish from contaminated waters or from food prepared by someone with Hepatitis A. Those with Hepatitis A are usually infectious BEFORE they have any symptoms,so you probably won’t know if a sex partner is infected.
Hepatitis B is found in the precum, semen, and blood of an infected person. You can get Hepatitis B by having sex with someone infected with it or by coming into contact with any of their bodily fluids. Oral sex with an infected partner carries a low risk for infection, however. To reduce your risk, avoid unprotected insertive sex, and don’t share any personal items that may have another person’s blood on them, such as sex toys, needles (including tattoo needles), toothbrushes, and razors. Use condoms for sex, especially if you think your partner may be infected with Hepatitis B.
Although sexual transmission of Hepatitis C is more difficult than other types of hepatitis, rough sex or any sexual practices that lead to bleeding may increase the risk. Blood-to-blood contact is the most common way to become infected, so avoid behaviors that might allow even a microscopic amount of someone else’s blood to enter your bloodstream. Avoid sharing personal items like sex toys, razors, syringes/needles (including tattoo needles) and toothbrushes. Sharing drug paraphernalia for snorted drugs like coke, crystal and K also carries a risk because these drugs are crystallized and have sharp edges which cause bleeding of the membranes in the nose. Sharing bumpers or straws or anything used to snort drugs with another person who may be infected can allow some of their blood (even if you can’t see it) into your nose, putting you at risk.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF?
There are vaccines available for both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. To schedule an appointment at Fenway Health for a vaccination, please call 617.927.6000.