AIDS, Hepatitis and Sexual Health

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Hepatitis A

Hep A is contained in feaces (shit) and must be ingested via contaminated food and water, or by ingesting contaminated faeces. This can be via food, drink and eating utensils handled by infected person, water contaminated by sewage or food, such as shellfish, contaminated by sewage, or anal/oral sex (rimming).


Washing hands and general hygiene practices.


Symptoms can include: jaundice (yellow), nausea, fever, dark urine, vomiting, poor appetite, pain in joints or below ribs on right side. Adults are likely to have symptoms (can be mild but severity of illness tends to increase with age). Children under 6 yrs may not have symptoms.


Different blood tests detect different stages of infection. See G.P. for specific information. Incubation 15-50 days to show symptoms (average 28 days)


From two weeks before symptoms until one week after symptoms.


Hepatitis A doesn't cause long-term liver damage. Most people recover by 2-3 months, the rest by 6 months. Someone infected by Hep A develops life-long immunity.


Usually conservative treatment of bed rest and adequate fluids monitored by a Doctor.


Two injections: O month and 6-12 months. Usually gives immunity for up to 10 yrs. Immunity may need to be checked 3 months. Combination Hep A and Hep B vaccinations are also available. Immunoglobulin injection (contains protective antibodies) may be of benefit in preventing or modifying the severity of infection. Must be given within 7 - 10 days of first being exposed to hepatitis A. If someone has been in an at risk situation, see G.P. immediately.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B can be spread through blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk. Hepatitis is caused by a virus called hepatitis B virus (HBV) that infects the liver. The term hepatitis means inflamation of the liver and there are causes other than viruses.


You may have no symptoms at all or you may contract a sever illness with jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin), fever, loss of appetite, tiredness and pain in the joints. In extreme cases hepatitis can cause serious liver damage.

Generally the illness lasts for months and passes eventually with rest. Most people are then immune and protected from getting the disease again.

Around 10 per cent of people who get the virus will have it for life. These people become "carriers" of hepatitis B and they can pass it on to others. They may not know they have the disease.

Chronic carriers may develop liver damage or liver cancer later in their lives.


Hepatitis B can be transmitted through unprotected vaginal or anal sex without the use of a condom, sharing any personal injecting equipment or tattoo and body piercing equipment that has not been steralised properly. A woman who is a carrier may pass the infection to her baby during childbirth.


There is no cure for hepatitis B, however, there are new tratments available for people who are carriers.


There is a safe, effective vaccine to prevent hepatitis B. This usually involves two or three injections over six months. Any doctor or clinic can arrange hepatitis B vaccination.

The virus can be prevented by using condoms correctly for vaginal or anal sex and by not sharing injecting drug equipment, including spoons, tourniquets and water.

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