Hep C

Getting It

Hep C is mostly passed on through blood-to-blood contact with someone who has it. While sharing injecting is perhaps the best known risk for Hep C, there is increasing evidence that this happens during sex as well. It’s a very common virus, especially in our community- more people live with Hep C in Australia than HIV.

Because the virus survives in dried blood for roughly 4 days, you don’t necessarily need physical contact with a person carrying it to pick it up.

High risk activities include:

  • Needle stick injuries and sharing injecting equipment
  • Unsterile injecting equipment
  • Sharing unwashed sex toys
  • Sharing razors, unsterile tattoo and piercing practices
  • Barebacking
  • Fisting & heavy arse play

It can be a few weeks before you experience any symptoms of Hep C, and many people won’t get any at all. Common signs within the first six months of contracting Hep C are:

  • Flu like symptoms
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin)

Some people clear the virus naturally after six months, but for others, and without treatment, the symptoms will progress into chronic infection. This can include cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver and cancer of the liver.

Treating It

For many years, Hep C has been notoriously difficult to treat, especially in older people and those with an already compromised immune system. The good news is that very recently new drugs have entered into the Australian health care system that are highly effective, and more are on their way.

Treatment will be tailored to each individual case and will involve a combination of anti-viral medications that aim to clear the virus from the body whilst halting the scarring of the liver and progression of cancer. The good news is, new Hep C treatments have a very high success rate of clearing the virus.

For those who can’t clear the virus, it’s usually possible to manage the symptoms with a healthy lifestyle.

Think About

There’s no getting around it, if you’re sexually adventurous, you’re in a high risk category for Hep C. That said, there are many ways to reduce your risk of contracting it:

TEST

Hep C is detected with a blood test. Hep C testing is recommended for people with HIV or with a history of injecting drug use.

FIND YOUR NEAREST TESTING SERVICE 

TALK

Being as open as possible with your fuck buddies about your last test result will hopefully encourage them to do so too – knowing the facts helps you put methods in place to reduce risk.

PREVENTION

Hep C is present in blood and cum, and there can be enough of it in the tiniest spot of blood to cause infection if it gets into a negative guy’s blood stream. It can survive in dried blood for up to four or five days (unlike HIV), making barriers the best prevention methods.

Here are some prevention strategies on minimising the chances of Hep C being passed on or acquired:

  • Using your own injecting equipment, including fits, mixing spoons and tourniquets
  • Using a new fit each time you inject
  • Washing your hands before and after injecting
  • Checking yourself and buddies in long sessions for friction burns and cuts on your cock and body
  • Keeping cuts, sores, and abrasions covered
  • Using condoms when you’re fucking
  • Using a new condom on sex toys each time they’re shared
  • Using gloves when fisting: fresh ones with each arse, changing them if you touch anything else like the lube pot or mat
  • Washing hands and sex toys between partners
  • Wiping down any slings, chains, or floggers before and after use

 More of It

For more information on Hep C and all other STIs, check out: http://www.thedramadownunder.info/

Hepatitis NSW have everything you need to know about all things Hep-related, including treatment options.

The Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service (MHAHS) for HIV & Hepatitis information published in languages other than English