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Hep C - What Gay Men Need to Know

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  • June 21st 2012
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  • 9:10am
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By Dr Fiona Bisshop

By Dr Fiona Bisshop

Hepatitis C is a virus spread mainly through blood-to-blood contact, such as sharing of injecting equipment, tattoo equipment or razors.  Reports of sexual transmission are less common, however in recent times we have seen increasing rates of Hep C transmission amongst men who have sex with men.  This tends to be associated with unprotected anal sex, rougher or poorly lubricated sex and practices such as fisting.

Hep C infects the liver, and without treatment up to 20% of people infected will develop cirrhosis (severe liver disease) and up to 5% will get liver cancer. It generally takes many years for complications to develop, although excess alcohol can speed up this process.

HIV positive people are particularly susceptible to infection.  People who are co-infected with both HIV and Hep C progress more quickly to advanced HIV disease, and their Hep C is much harder to treat, and liver disease can occur more rapidly.

Treatment for Hep C is no walk in the park - it takes several months, and is not effective for everyone.  However treatments are improving, with more effective antivirals becoming available this year and even better treatments likely in the near future.

Protect yourself and your partners from Hep C - remember that blood-to-blood contact that can occur during unprotected sex increases the risk, and never ever share needles.

Hep C testing is available as a blood test, and should be a routine part of your regular sexual health checkup.


Don't forget sharing piercing

Don't forget sharing piercing jewelry and personal care items.... these carry much greater risk

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