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Gay and Bisexual Men's Health

Viral Hepatitis

Gay and bisexual men are at increased risk for certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including Hepatitis A, B and C, which are contagious liver diseases. Approximately 10 % of new Hepatitis A and 20% of all new Hepatitis B infections in the United States are among men who have sex with men. Many men have not been vaccinated against viral hepatitis, despite the availability of safe and effective vaccine.  In addition, CDC has investigated several outbreaks of Hepatitis C among HIV positive gay men. In addition, CDC has investigated several outbreaks of Hepatitis C among HIV positive gay men.

There is a safe and effective vaccine that protects gay and bisexual men from Hepatitis A and B. In fact, CDC recommends that men who have sex with men (MSM) get vaccinated against viral hepatitis A and B.

How is Hepatitis A spread?

Hepatitis A is usually spread from contact with feces (or stool) of an infected person. In men who have sex with men, Hepatitis A usually is transmitted through oral-anal sexual contact. Hepatitis A ranges in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.

How is Hepatitis B spread?

Hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluid infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of a person who is not infected. In men who have sex with men, Hepatitis B is often transmitted through unprotected anal sex or receptive oral sex (giving oral sex). The infection can also be spread when individuals share injection drug equipment. Hepatitis B can be either "acute" or "chronic." Acute Hepatitis B is a mild illness that can last a few weeks or months.  While some people “clear” the virus, others go on to develop chronic Hepatitis B, a serious, lifelong illness.

How is Hepatitis C spread?

Hepatitis C is spread through contact with blood from an infected person by sharing needles or other drug injection equipment.  Hepatitis C also can be spread through sexual contact, although scientists do not know how frequently this occurs. Scientists continue to see outbreaks of Hepatitis C among HIV-infected gay and bisexual men. Rough sex, sex with multiple partners, or having a sexually transmitted disease or HIV appears to increase a person’s risk for Hepatitis C.

What are the symptoms of viral hepatitis?

Many people with viral hepatitis do not have any symptoms. Symptoms, if they do appear, are similar for all types of hepatitis and can include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, grey-colored bowel movements, joint pain and jaundice (a yellowing of the skin or eyes).

Can viral hepatitis be prevented?

Experts recommend that all gay and bisexual men be vaccinated for Hepatitis A and B. The Hepatitis A and B vaccines can be given separately or as a combination vaccine. The vaccines are safe, effective, and require 2-3 shots within a six month period depending on the type of vaccine. A person should complete all shots in the series for long-term protection.  There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C.

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