Previously, sexual transmission of hepatitis C was thought to be rare. More recently however, there have been increases in the number of transmissions attributed to sex among gay men and other men who have sex with men in Australia, particularly those living with HIV. These increases have also been reported in numerous locations overseas, including the United Kingdom, Europe, and North America.
Hepatitis C is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver and can lead to liver disease such as cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) and even liver cancer. It can be treated but the sooner someone finds out they have hep C and start on treatment, the better the chance their treatments will work. Hep C often shows no symptoms, so many people don’t know they have it. The only way to know for sure is to get tested.
Unlike hepatitis A and B, even if you have had hep C before and cleared it, you can still get it again if you are exposed. Having hep C before does not give you an immunity to it. To reduce the risk of hep C during sex:
- Use condoms and water-based or silicon-based lube during anal sex
- Use gloves and plenty of lube for fisting
- Avoid sharing pots of lube
- Use a new condom on a sex toy each time it gets used, or don’t share sex toys
- Wash hands and sex toys with warm water and soap between partners and after sex
The New Deal was produced by the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO), the website has been designed to provide gay men with information about sexual transmission of hepatitis C and how to prevent it, testing for and treatment of hepatitis C, as well as information about HIV and hepatitis C co-infection.
AFAO president Willie Rowe points out why the website is needed: “With the recent increases in gay men getting hep C through sex, it is important they are informed about the risks and what they can do to address them.”
Hepatitis C is a significant health issue in its own right but there are particular health concerns for those people living with HIV.
Robert Mitchell, president of the National Association of People with HIV Australia (NAPWHA), explains why this information is important for HIV-positive men.
“Having both HIV and hep C can have serious impacts on the health of HIV-positive people. It can make treating both viruses more difficult and can also increase the progression of hep C and liver disease.”
For more information about hepatitis C and treatment, visit www.thenewdeal.org.au