What is it?
Hepatitis B is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver and may result in liver disease.
How do you get it?
Hepatitis B can be passed on by infected blood or cum through activities like unprotected fucking and oral sex, sharing injecting equipment, toothbrushes or razors and tattooing and body piercing with un-sterile equipment.
What are the symptoms or signs?
Symptoms of hepatitis B infection may include mild flu-like symptoms, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, joint and muscle pain and jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes or urine). Symptoms can take 1 – 6 months to show up and some people may have no symptoms at all. Hepatitis B can become a chronic infection (more than 6 months in duration) however most adults will recover completely from hepatitis B. The few that do not clear the virus may be at risk of developing cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Hepatitis B is diagnosed with a blood test. Once you have had hepatitis B anti-bodies will be detectable in your blood. Most people will become immune to hepatitis B once they have had the disease, meaning that it is unlikely that they will get it again. For people who do not clear the virus hepatitis B infection is monitored with blood tests called liver function tests.
Can it be treated?
There is no cure for hepatitis B. However, people with chronic (long-lasting) hepatitis B should speak to their doctor about treatment options. For those people with liver damage, the doctor may suggest treatment. While for those people without liver damage it may be best to wait. Treatment does not cure hepatitis B, but it can change an aggressive infection into a mild one, helping stop the liver from being damaged. If the infection is considered mild, it may be considered better to monitor it and consider treatment later. People with chronic hepatitis B may be treated with anti-viral medication such as lamivudine, adefovir, entecavir, or pegylated interferon. These are specialised drugs so see your doctor and hepatitis specialist. There is no treatment for acute hepatitis B infection.
How can it be prevented?
There is a vaccination course available for hepatitis B. Three doses of the vaccination are required with an interval of 1 to 2 months between the first and the second dose with a third dose at 2 to 5 months after the second dose. There is also a hepatitis A and B combination vaccination available. (See hepatitis A prevention for details.)
For HIV-positive men, hepatitis B antibody level should be tested yearly to check for the need for a booster.
To reduce the risk of transmission of hepatitis B:
- Use condoms and water-based lube when fucking or during oral sex, gloves and lube during fisting, and change these between partners.
- Avoid sharing sex toys (or use condoms over toys and always change condoms between different partners).
- Wash hands and sex toys during sex and between partners.
- Avoid sharing injecting equipment, toothbrushes and razors and make sure body artists use sterile equipment for tattoos and piercings.
- Avoid sharing injecting equipment including needles, syringes, swabs, spoons, filters, water and tourniquets.
- Always use new injecting equipment.
- Always wash your hands before and after injecting.
- Avoid sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, razors and nail scissors / clippers.
- Make sure body artists use new and sterile equipment for tattooing, body piercing and other body art.
- Wear disposable gloves if you give someone first aid or are cleaning up blood or body fluids.
Hepatitis B & HIV
If you are HIV+ one of the consequences of also having hepatitis B infection is that it may necessitate having to temporarily stop taking certain kinds of anti-HIV medications and drugs for opportunistic illnesses.
Many HIV drugs are metabolised through the liver, and cannot be tolerated during acute hepatitis illness.
Studies have not reliably shown any link between hepatitis B and more rapid HIV disease progression though some have suggested such a link could exist.