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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 A and B, despite the availability of safe and effective vaccine. Gay and bisexual men are at increased risk for Hepatitis C if they are involved in high-risk behaviors. Unfortunately, there is not vaccine for   hepatitis C.

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 when a person ingests fecal matter—even in microscopic amounts—from an infected person. Among men who have sexual contact with other men, Hepatitis A can be spread through sexual activity or contact with fingers or objects that have been contaminated with the virus. Hepatitis A can also be spread through contaminated food or water, which most often occurs in countries where Hepatitis A is common.

How is Hepatitis B spread?

Hepatitis B is spread when body fluids—such as semen or blood—from a person infected with the Hepatitis B virus enter the body of someone who is not infected. The Hepatitis B virus is 50–100 times more infectious than HIV and is easily transmitted during sexual activity. Hepatitis B also can be spread through sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment used to inject drugs. In many parts of the world, hepatitis B is spread during childbirth.

How is Hepatitis C spread?

Hepatitis C is spread through contact with the blood of an infected person, primarily through sharing needles, syringes, or other injection drug equipment. Hepatitis C can also be spread when getting tattoos and body piercings in informal settings or with non-sterile instruments. Although uncommon, Hepatitis C can also be spread through sexual contact. Having a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or HIV, sex with multiple partners, or rough sex 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 symptoms and do not know they are infected. For acute hepatitis, symptoms usually appear within several weeks to several months of exposure and can last up to 6 months. Symptoms of chronic viral hepatitis can take decades to develop and people can live with an infection for years and not feel sick. When symptoms do appear with chronic hepatitis, they often are a sign of advanced liver disease. Symptoms for both acute and chronic viral hepatitis can include: fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, grey-colored stools, joint pain, and jaundice.

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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