May 2010

Hepatitis A in gay and bisexual men

n recent weeks there has been an outbreak of Hepatitis A (Hep A) among men who have sex with men in the Bristol Area.

Hepatitis A can cause a serious illness. 
This means that if you are gay or bisexual you are at risk of contracting Hepatitis A, if you have had sex with any man in the Bristol Area, or with any man who has had sex in the Bristol Area and has returned into Wiltshire, Swindon or Bath, you are at risk.

What is Hepatitis A 
Hepatitis A is a viral infection of the liver. It is different from Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C and is spread in different ways.

How can I catch Hepatitis A 
People with Hepatitis A have the virus in their faeces (Poo). To catch it you need to have direct contact with the faecal matter, or with things that have been in contact with faecal matter. 'Anal Play' is one of the main ways of catching this infection, when even tiny amounts can find its way into your mouth.

  • Fingering
  • Rimming
  • Sex Toys
  • Fisting
  • Having Sex - Especially unprotected sex (Fucking)

People living or working with others who have Hepatitis A are at greatest risk. The most common way Hepatitis A spreads is on people's hands. This happens if they don't wash them after using the loo, which means food and various objects in the home or workplace get contaminated.

For example, you can get Hepatitis A by eating contaminated food, or by drinking water that has been handles by someone with Hepatitis A.

What are the Symptoms? 
A few people have no symptoms but symptoms include:

  • Flu – like symptoms
  • Loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and stomach pain
  • Pale Faeces
  • Dark coloured urine
  • Yellow skin (Jaundice)

People with Hepatitis A are infectious for about 2 weeks before their symptoms start and for up to a week after they develop jaundice. They can be ill for several weeks.

How do I avoid Hepatitis A 
The best way to avoid Hepatitis A is to be immunised at your local Sexual Health Clinic/GUM Clinic. You'll need two doses, six to twelve months apart. The vaccine is safe if you are HIV positive. You can have the Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccine together, if you haven't had either of them before.

You may be able to cut down the risk by other ways as well:

  • Always wash your hands after sex and using the loo
  • Avoid rimming until you have been immunised
  • Use gloves during fingering and fisting
  • Wash your sex toys

What to do if you're worried that you might have Hepatitis A 
Seek advice from your local sexual health clinic

For further information about Hepatitis A, you can call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 (24 hours a day) or visit NHS Choices at

Where can I get immunised

  • The GUM Clinic at Royal United Hospital, Bath 01225 824617
  • Sexual Health Clinic at Great Western Hospital, Swindon 01793 604038
  • Sexual Health at Chippenham Clinic 01249 456502
  • The GUM at Salisbury District Hospital, Salisbury 01722 425120

This information has been released jointly by the NHS, THT and MSH