Is Hepatitis a Sexually Transmitted Disease?

Some types of viral hepatitis can be transmitted through sexual contact, in addition to being transmitted via other routes. Each type of hepatitis virus has a different risk of being transmitted through sex.

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Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is spread easily by casual person-to-person contact and by food or water contaminated by the feces of infected people. This is called the fecal-oral route or the hand-to-mouth route. You can be infected with hepatitis A in many ways that don't require sharing body fluids or needles. Intimate contact during sex can result in transmitting hepatitis A, especially anal/oral contact, but it definitely isn't limited to that kind of contact. There is a vaccine to prevent hepatitis A.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B virus is the type of hepatitis most commonly linked with being sexually transmitted, as it is present in semen, body fluids, and blood that are shared during condomless sex. It is also transmitted through sharing needles or razors and other blood exposure, such as during childbirth between the mother or birthing parent and the child.

Its only route of transmission is through blood and body fluids and it isn't transmitted through other routes. You can't catch it from a toilet seat or from casual contact with any object an infected person has simply touched. The good news is that hepatitis B can be prevented by a vaccine.

Hepatitis C

The sexual transmission of hepatitis C has generally been considered very rare, and that is not considered to be a major mode of transmission for the virus. Hepatitis C virus is not easily transmitted through sexual contact. Usually, the hepatitis C virus is transmitted through needle-sharing blood exposure during the use of injection drugs and to a much lesser extent through exposures in healthcare settings. Some cases of hepatitis C infection have been reported via occupational and perinatal exposure.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that studies have found that sexual transmission of hepatitis C can occur. The risk is very low among heterosexual couples in regular relationships. There is an increased risk for people who have multiple sexual partners and for people living with HIV. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.

Reducing Your Risk

To help reduce your risk of getting hepatitis sexually, use an external condom (also known as a condom that is placed on the penis) during every act of vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse. Internal condoms (also known as condoms placed in the vagina, front hole, or anus) can also be used. If using an internal condom for anal intercourse, remember to remove the inner ring.

Learn how to use condoms appropriately to prevent body fluid exposure during sex. This will also reduce your risk of other sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and genital herpes.

Talk with a healthcare provider about getting a vaccine for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. These immunizations have been standard for many years. Be aware that while they may reduce your risk for hepatitis, they won't reduce your risk for other STDs. You should still use safer sex precautions as a line of defense against STDs.

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By Buddy T
Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism.