Is Hepatitis a Sexually Transmitted Disease?

Liver. Computer artwork of a naked woman with a healthy liver (orange).
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Question: Is Hepatitis a Sexually Transmitted Disease?

Answer: Some types of hepatitis are sexually transmitted disease (STDs). The viruses that cause them are present in a person's blood, semen, and body fluid. Hepatitis A, B, and C all can be passed from an infected person to another during sexual contact.

Hepatitis B is the one type of hepatitis that is most often spread through sexual contact. Hepatitis A can be spread through anal/oral contact.

Researchers don't know exactly how hepatitis C is spread. But, they do know that hepatitis C is hard to get through sexual contact.

Sexual Transmission of HCV Rare, But Increasing

The sexual transmission of hepatitis C has generally been considered very rare, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that recent studies have found that sexual transmission of hepatitis C (HCV) can occur.

Usually, HCV is transmitted through non-digestive tract exposures to contaminated blood, usually through use of injection drugs and to a much lesser extent through exposures in health-care settings.

Some cases of HCV infection have been reported via occupational and perinatal exposure.

Only Exposure Another HCV Partner

Recent studies have found that sexual transmission of HCV can occur especially among HIV-infected persons. CDC data indicate that up to 10% of patients with acute HCV infection report that their only known contact for risk infection was with a known HCV-infected sex partner.

Studies of HCV transmissions between heterosexual or homosexual couples found low but increasing rates of HCV infection in partners of persons with HCV infection, compared with those who partners are not HCV infected.

HIV Infection Is a Factor

The CDC reports that several studies have found an increased risk for HCV infection linked to increasing numbers of sexual partners among heterosexuals and men who have sex with men, especially if those partners are HIV positive.

Some "clusters" of sexual transmission of HCV have been reported among men having sex with men in New York City and several European cities, the CDC reports. The clusters of HCV infection have been linked to HIV-infected men having sex with other HIV-infected men, group sex, as well as the use of cocaine and other non-intravenous drugs during sex.

Reduce the Risk of Hepatitis

To help reduce your risk of getting hepatitis sexually, use a male condom with every act of vaginal, oral, or anal intercourse.

Talk with your health care provider about getting a vaccine (an injection of a drug that you get when you are healthy that will protect you from getting sick) for hepatitis A and hepatitis B. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Hepatitis C." 2012 STD Treatment Guidelines January 2011

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