Think may have been exposed to hepatitis B? Here’s what you need to know.
What is hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a virus that causes liver inflammation. Most guys infected with hepatitis B will get a mild case and will completely recover. This is called an acute or short-term infection. For a small number of people, their bodies do not clear the virus on their own; they go on to develop chronic or long-term Hepatitis B.
How is hepatitis B spread?
Hepatitis B is spread through direct contact with saliva, blood, semen or other body fluids from an infected guy. It is passed during sex or by sharing drug equipment like needles, cocaine straws and crack pipes.
How do I know if I have hepatitis B?
- Whether you have acute or chronic hepatitis B, you may or may not have symptoms.
- Symptoms of acute hepatitis B usually develop within four to six weeks of infection. Sometimes the symptoms are so mild you might not realize you have the virus. You may notice a general flu-like feeling with loss of appetite, fever, nausea, and vomiting. You might also notice dark-coloured urine, clay-coloured feces, yellow skin and/or eyes and tenderness on your right side below your ribs.
- Symptoms of a chronic hepatitis B infection can be similar to those of an acute hepatitis B: they tend to be mild to moderate in intensity and typically they come and go.
How do I test for hepatitis B?
Be honest with a health care professional about your sexual history and drug use. You may be asked to give a blood sample to confirm the presence of Hepatitis B antibodies.
What do I do if I have hepatitis B?
- If you are infected with hepatitis B, you will need to have regular blood tests to track your liver’s health.
- People with acute hepatitis B do not require treatment. Treatment is recommended only for chronic hepatitis B and can include medication to slow viral reproduction and boost your immune system.
- Talk about your options with a health care professional who specializes in viral hepatitis.
How do I protect myself?
- There is an effective vaccine that will prevent infection; it’s free for gay guys.
- Regular use of condoms will reduce your chances of getting hepatitis B and other STIs.
- You can reduce your chances of coming into contact with hepatitis B by reducing your number of sexual partners and by not sharing drug equipment.
Hepatitis B and HIV
- Because HIV weakens the immune system, HIV-positive people who are also infected with hepatitis B are more likely to progress to chronic hepatitis B. If you have both HIV and hepatitis B, consult with your doctor about your options.