Sexual & General Health
Hepatitis: a guide for gay and bisexual men
Hepatitis can cause permanent liver damage and even kill. Some forms of Hepatitis stay with you for life. Hepatitis A and B can be passed on sexually, and gay men are particularly at risk. But there are safe and effective vaccines that can protect us from infection.
Vaccination against Hepatitis B virus (Hep B) is available from your doctor but it is suggested that you go to your GUM or sexual health clinic where you can be treated anonymously, confidentially and for free. You will need a series of injections over six months.
If you are HIV positive or don't know your status you should discuss this at the clinic because some Hep B vaccines may carry a risk. You should then ask for one of the alternative Hep B vaccines.
The vaccine should protect you for a long time, but you will need a booster after four or five years, so remember to go back for a blood test in a few years time. Remember if you don't finish the full course, it won't give you long term protection.
Hepatitis vaccinations will not protect against HIV transmission.
Hepatitis A vaccination (Hep A) is not usually available free. You can ask your doctor or at a clinic, but don't be surprised if they say there will be a charge. People sometimes have this vaccination when travelling abroad, as water supplies in some countries are contaminated, and pay for it like other holiday vaccinations. The Department of Health has said that gay men who are at risk should be given the vaccine free. A second injection in six months will give you cover for ten years.
The Hep B virus is present in an infected person's saliva and cum as well as in their blood, piss and shit. It is very infectious. All these activities carry a risk of infection:
- sucking cock
- scat or shit play
- sharing toothbrushes
- sharing razors
- watersports or piss play
- rimming or licking arse
- sharing sex toys
- blood to blood contact
Hepatitis infection can be very serious and affects people in different ways. If you become infected you might suffer serious liver damage, this will need urgent treatment - you will remain infectious. Such damage can be fatal. Or your body may recover but remain infectious: this cannot be treated and you may have further illnesses. Some people deal easily with the virus and get rid of it without problems. It is not possible to know how your body will deal with the virus.
You can't tell if someone is a carrier of Hep B without a blood test - they may not know themselves. Start a course of vaccinations now and avoid the risk.
The Hep A virus is transmitted through oral contact with shit. Activities such as scat or shit play, rimming or licking arse, and fingering the arse with oral contact afterwards, all carry a risk.
Hep A infection is not as serious as Hep B, but for many it will mean time off work. Some people will not have any illness and a few will suffer serious liver damage. It is particularly dangerous for people who are HIV positive. The infection is not permanent and you are infectious for a couple of months.
Produced by Wessex Gay Men's Health Forum. © 2001