Cases of Hepatitis A have recently been seen in the South West in men who have sex with men.
What is Hepatitis A?
Hepatitis A is inflammation of the liver - caused by a viral infection. It is mainly spread through contaminated food, poor hand washing or sex. During sex it is mainly passed on when licking skin, condoms or sex toys which have faeces (poo) on them. This could include licking skin near the anus (rimming), buttocks, groin or penis (giving oral sex after anal sex).
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms for Hepatitis A are rarely life-threatening. They can be so mild that people may not realise they have it. But weeks after infection it can cause:
- mild flu-like symptoms
- extreme tiredness
- itchy skin
- stomach pain
- jaundice, meaning your skin and the whites of your eyes turn yellow, your urine is dark and your faeces (poo) are pale.
How do I protect myself?
You can avoid getting Hepatitis A by:
- Washing your hands after sex (ideally buttocks, groin and penis too)
- Changing condoms between anal and oral sex
- Covering anything which is shared during sex with a fresh condom or fresh latex glove for each new person
- Using a latex barrier (eg, a condom cut into a square) for rimming
- Using latex gloves for fingering or fisting
- Not sharing sex toys.
There is also a vaccination against Hepatitis A - contact us on 0800 3283508 or 01752 254406 for more information or ask about this at your next sexual health clinic appointment.
If I am HIV+?
People with HIV might stay sick with Hepatitis A for longer. It may also be necessary to stop taking HIV or other medications temporarily. When the liver is inflamed because of Hepatitis A, it may not be able to process medicines properly, which could lead to worse side-effects.
If you are HIV+ you can still be vaccinated against Hepatitis A, discuss it when you attend your next HIV appointment.
Please also be aware: If you develop symptoms of Hep A, you should:
- see a health care provider
- not prepare food for others or engage in sexual activity.
You may already be vaccinated: Two doses of Hepatitis A vaccine are needed for long term protection.