Hepatitis B

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27 May 2014

Hepatitis B is a sexually transmissible disease, and it is also vaccine preventable, so people who are sexually active can protect themselves by having the vaccination.

Are you at risk?

Hepatitis B is transmitted in similar ways to HIV so risk factors include unprotected anal or vaginal sex, injecting drugs where equipment is shared between users, and genital contact. Unprotected oral sex where ejaculation occurs can also, though more rarely, result in transmission of hepatitis B.

Symptoms

Symptoms of hepatitis B infection usually show up between one and six months after exposure to the virus. They may include; a mild, flu-like illness, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and discomfort, vomiting and nausea, pale faeces, aching joints, and jaundice (can be recognised by yellowing of the eyes). People with hep B virus can develop chronic infection which can result in serious liver damage. A blood test will determine a diagnosis.

Prevention

Using condoms and dental dams during sex, and avoiding risk behaviours like needle sharing can minimise the risk. But the only truly effective preventative measure is vaccination. The vaccination can be safely used even if you’re HIV-positive.

Hepatitis B and HIV 

Hepatitis affects the liver .So the ability to tolerate HIV treatments, which also affect the liver ,may be reduced. Treatment is available for people with chronic hepatitis B, though a cure is difficult to achieve.

Other infections and HIV

  • Having two infections at once is often called ‘concurrent infection’or ‘co-infection’;
  • Being screened and treated for other infections that you may have in addition to HIV is very important for your health;
  • Other infections, such as sexually transmissible infections, can be harder to diagnose and treat when you have HIV;
  • Some infections, such as syphilis, have a different and far more aggressive disease course in the presence of HIV;
  • The presence of other infections can activate your immune system in a manner that increases your viral load, placing you at risk of faster disease progression.

Other infections in your genital tract can increase HIV activity there, making you potentially more infectious to your partner/s.