What is it?

Hepatitis B is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver and may result in liver disease and damage.

How do I get it?

You can get Hepatitis B via semen through activities like unprotected anal and oral sex and infected blood through sharing injecting equipment. Although less likely, you may be at risk of being infected by sharing toothbrushes, razors or un-sterilised tattooing and body piercing equipment.

What symptoms or signs might I notice?

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 people will recover completely from Hepatitis B. The few that do not clear the virus may be at risk of developing longer term health problems such as cirrhosis (liver failure) and liver cancer.

How will I be tested?

Hepatitis B is diagnosed with a blood test that looks for the virus and for your bodies response to it which are your antibodies. This is usually a combined blood test that will also test you for HIV and Syphilis. If your result is negative you will be offered a free vaccination course that will immunise you for Hepatitis B and Hepatitis A

If you have been exposed to Hepatitis B, and cleared the virus, antibodies will be detectable in your blood and this result will interpreted in order to see if you are now immune to the Hepatitis B virus. Most men will become immune to Hepatitis B once they have had the infection, meaning that it is unlikely that they will get it again. The antibodies you produce will help clear your body of the virus.

How will I be treated?

For men who do not clear the virus, they will be referred to specialist Hepatitis B services who will monitor the condition. 

How can I avoid Hepatitis B?

There is a free combined vaccination for Hepatitis A and B available. Four doses in total are required for life long immunity. Three vaccinations are given over a 3 week period with a 4th vaccination at 12 months. Other things to think about include:

  • Using condoms and water-based lube for anal sex
  • Wash hands and sex toys during sex and between partners
  • Avoid sharing sex toys (or use condoms over toys and always change condoms between different partners)
  • Use gloves and lube during fisting, and change these between partners
  • Avoid sharing all injecting equipment and paraphernalia 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

What if I’m HIV-positive?

HIV positive men are encouraged to have both Hepatitis A and B vaccinations to prevent avoidable infection of the liver which is important for your body's handling of prescribed drugs for treatment of HIV and other related infections.

Where can I get help?

If you think you might have Hepatitis B, get a check up at Steve Retson Project or Sandyford sexual health services. Click on the services link for check up options.