First published on Hepatitis Australia's website in March 2020
"Having HBV is only a small facet of who you are, and not a reason to give up on a loving relationship. A partner who accepts you as you are and wants the best for you is someone who will not see HBV as a barrier to getting to know you.”
Although most people get hepatitis B at birth, it can be transmitted in other ways including sex. This article contains information about how it is spreads, and how you can keep your partner safe.
How Hepatitis B is spread through sex
Hepatitis B contained in blood, semen or other fluids can be spread through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. As it is very infectious, it transmits easily through breaks in the skin or mucous membranes (the lining of the nose, mouth, eyes and other soft tissues) .
We also need to remember that hepatitis B infection can occur through non-sexual contact such as sharing toothbrushes, razors or contact with an infected open wound.
However, it is not spread through normal hugging or kissing, or sharing meals, showers or toilets with someone who has hepatitis B .
How can we prevent the spread of hepatitis B?
The best way to prevent hepatitis B infection, is to get vaccinated. Given hepatitis B can be spread in many different ways, it is strongly advised that all household contacts and sexual partners should be vaccinated, as well as using condoms with sexual partners . By the way, vaccination is usually free for the above groups .
If you are concerned you may have been put at risk of hepatitis B, or that you may have put someone else at risk, contact your GP or local sexual health clinic straight away. Your doctor can also contact a sexual partner for you, without including your details if you wish to stay anonymous.
Telling others about your diagnosis
After you have had time to come to terms with your diagnosis , you may wish to start thinking about disclosing your condition to others.There are many possible reasons for disclosure, such as:
Knowing when and how to disclose can be difficult. Some people may be supportive, whereas others may withdraw or even be angry. Often this is due to their lack of knowledge about the condition. Be prepared that a relationship may change or even end.
Here are some tips that may help with the process :
Finally, you may find these insights help you to negotiate your own relationships and communicate your diagnosis.
“My personal philosophy and method is to be selective about the people I choose to date. To me, it is important if the potential date has common sense and good character. Once I feel this person is worthy of my time and attention, I have the talk about my hepatitis B, and that HBV is vaccine preventable. If they are interested in continuing a romantic relationship with me, they need to be vaccinated to protect against HBV. Some may have already been vaccinated, and if so, HBV is no longer an issue.”
“You need to approach dating, not as who will ‘accept’ you, but rather who ‘deserves’ you. Perspective is everything. If you see a health issue like HBV as a unique barrier to intimacy others will not understand and might reject you for, you will create self-defeating thoughts that not only limit your happiness, but are inaccurate. Everyone has issues. Whether it is health, mental, social or financial, we all feel alone at times and want a connection with another soul.”
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Dr Alice Lam
I'm a doctor who is passionate about writing quality health content.