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Viral Hepatitis Facts for Gay and Bisexual Men

Viral hepatitis is a disease that affects the liver most commonly caused by one of three types of viruses: Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C.  According to the CDC, among young adults, an estimated 10% of new Hep-A cases and 20% of new Hep-B cases occur in gay or bisexual men.  If involved in activities that result in blood sharing, bisexual and gay men are at a higher risk of Hepatitis C.  While all three types of hepatitis can create similar symptoms, each virus is spread in different ways.

How is Hepatitis A spread?

Hepatitis A is usually spread when a person inadvertently ingests fecal matter from an infected person.  Even microscopic amounts of stool containing the Hepatitis A virus can be enough to cause infection.  Among gay and bisexual men, Hepatitis A can be spread through sexual activity or contact with fingers or objects that have the virus on them.  The virus can also be spread through contact with food, drinks, or objects contaminated by stool from an infected person.

How is Hepatitis B spread?

Hepatitis B is spread when bodily fluids such as blood or semen are transferred from a person infected with the virus to another person who doesn’t have it.  Hepatitis B is 50 times more infectious than HIV and is easily spread during sexual activity.  Viral hepatitis can also be spread through sharing syringes, needles, or other apparatus used to inject drugs.

How is Hepatitis C spread?

Hepatitis C is spread through contact with the blood of a person who has Hepatitis C.  This primarily occurs through the sharing of drug injection equipment like needles and syringes.  Hepatitis C can also be spread by tattoo needles and when getting piercings in places with non-sterile instruments.  It is uncommon, but Hepatitis C can also be spread through sexual contact.  Having an STD, HIV, rough sex, or sex with multiple partners appears to increase a person’s risk for Hepatitis C.

Is there a Hepatitis Vaccine?

There are safe and effective vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B available.  Health experts recommend that all gay and bisexual men get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B.  These vaccines can be given separately or together as one combined vaccine.  Two-to-three shots are given over 6 months depending on the type of vaccine. It’s important to complete all of the shots for long-term protection.

There is no vaccine available for Hepatitis C at this time.  The best way to prevent Hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially sharing needles or other drug-injection instruments.

The CDC recommends that gay and bisexual men get tested for Hepatitis B.  Getting tested can determine if you have, or have had, Hepatitis B and if you will need the vaccine series for protection.  If you’re concerned about your risk for Hepatitis, contact River Bend Medical Associates for an appointment today.

At River Bend Medical Associates our progressive, sensitive, and culturally diverse team is committed to delivering compassionate health care and promoting the well-being of our patients, employees, and the communities we serve.  When providing services to members of our local community, our goal is for our patients to feel secure in discussing any issue of medical concern with their River Bend practitioner. As part of your medical team, we are here to provide you with the best care in all aspects of your health care needs.  For more information on our medical practice, or to make an appointment contact River Bend Medical Associates, or call 916-392-4000.

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