Hepatitis B is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver and may result in liver disease. While most adults recover from hepatitis B, it can become a chronic infection, which means it can last longer than six months. Those that don’t clear the virus may be at risk of developing liver cancer, cirrhosis (scarring of the liver) or liver failure.
Hepatitis B travels to the liver from the bloodstream. It can be transmitted by infected blood or cum through:
- Condomless intercourse and oral sex
- Sharing injecting equipment, toothbrushes or razors
- Tattooing and body piercing with non-sterile equipment
How can I tell if I have hepatitis B?
Some people experience no symptoms after contracting hepatitis B. However, the most common symptoms can take one to six months to show up and can include:
- A fever or mild flu-like symptoms
- Weakness and fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Joint and muscle pain
- Jaundice (where your skin and/or eyes go yellow and your urine is dark)
The best way to find out if you have hepatitis B is by getting tested.
How do I get tested?
You will be given a blood test to see if you have contracted hepatitis B. Once you have had hepatitis B, you will most likely become immune to it, meaning you are unlikely to get it again. If you don’t clear the virus, your doctor will monitor you with liver function tests.
How can I get treated?
There is no treatment to cure hepatitis B if you’ve just contracted it, but in most cases it will clear on its own. If you have contracted the virus, you should avoid alcohol, high-salt processed foods such as meat, bacon and sausages, and other fatty foods and saturated fats.
If you have chronic (long-lasting) hepatitis B, your doctor can prescribe anti-viral medication. Although the medication won’t cure the virus, it can often change an aggressive infection into a mild one, and can prevent the liver from being damaged.
How can I protect myself from hepatitis B?
You can protect yourself from hepatitis B with a three-dose vaccination. After the initial vaccination, the second dose is required one month later and the third dose is required five months following the second dose. You can also get a three-dose hepatitis A and B combination vaccination.
It’s also a good idea to:
- Use condoms and water-based or silicone-based lube during oral sex and every time when you’re fucking
- Use gloves and lube during fisting and change them regularly, especially between partners
- Avoid sharing sex toys or sterilise them completely using disinfectant and a rinse in boiling water
- Avoid oral sex if you or your partner has herpes, ulcers or bleeding gums, as hepatitis B is transmitted through blood and body fluids
- Make sure body artists use new and sterile equipment for tattooing, body piercing and other body art, and ensure they work at premises registered by the local council
- Always use new or sterile needles and syringes. You can find your nearest NSW Needle and Syringe Program (NSP) Outlet here.
- Avoid sharing needles and syringes or other equipment, such as spoons, swabs or water
- Always wash your hands before and after injecting
- Avoid sharing personal items such as toothbrushes, razors and nail scissors or clippers
What if I’m HIV positive?
If you’re poz, we recommend getting vaccinated and you should also get tested yearly to check if you need a booster. The vaccination will not affect your HIV medication.
If I’m on PrEP how will Hepatitis B affect me?
The medication used for PrEP is also used in the treatment of chronic hepatitis B. Before starting PrEP, make sure you have been tested for hepatitis B and that your vaccination is up to date. While PrEP is an excellent prevention tool for HIV, vaccination is the best protection against hepatitis B.
Fast facts about hepatitis B
- Hepatitis B is transmitted by infected blood or cum
- The best way to prevent getting hepatitis B is to get a vaccination course