Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver.
If symptoms occur, they can include:
Loss of Appetite
Yellow Skin and Eyes
Pale Stools, Dark Urine
Hepatitis B is spread when blood or bodily fluids from a person infected with the hepatitis B virus enters the body of someone else. The virus is 100 times more infectious than HIV and can last for up to 7 days outside the body. Click here for more information on virus B.
Hepatitis C is spread when blood from a person infected with the hepatitis C virus enters the body of someone else. Hepatitis C is more infectious than HIV and can last for 4 days outside the body. Click here for more information on virus C.
‘Contracting’ the hepatitis virus means when a person who does not have the infection ‘catches’ the virus through contact with a person who is infected.
When someone has HIV and viral hepatitis it is harder for their body to fight the viruses. This means that they are more likely to develop a chronic infection and complications:
If you have HIV and viral hepatitis it is important to start ARVs as soon as possible and to take them every day for the rest of your life.
Alcohol increases the risk of developing complications of cirrhosis and liver failure. Avoid or reduce your intake as much as possible.
Drugs can cause liver damage. Amphetamines (including tik, cocaine), GBH and heroin are particularly hard on the liver. Avoid or reduce your use as far as possible, or change to a drug that is less likely to cause liver damage.
Always use any medication, including painkillers, as prescribed. Medication is usually broken down in the liver and taking incorrect amounts can further harm your liver. Avoid or reduce your intake as far as possible.
Try to be as healthy as possible. Enough sleep, exercise, drinking lots of water, and nutritious food all help your body fight infection.
If you are overweight, try to lose weight. Being overweight can cause fatty liver disease and diabetes, both of which harm your liver.
Be cautious of using over the counter ‘liver tonics’ or ‘liver boosters’ without checking with your health provider to ensure they are safe for you.
If you have hepatitis, using condoms and lube with your sex partner/s will dramatically lower the risk of transmission. Using lube is especially important for anal sex.
Treatment for hepatitis B or C lowers the chance that you pass on the infection through sex.
Encourage your sex partners to have a blood test for hepatitis B and C.
If your partner tests negative for hepatitis B, they can be vaccinated to protect them against the virus.
The hepatitis B and C viruses are very infectious and can easily spread when a person comes into contact with surfaces, equipment, or objects that are contaminated with infected blood, even in amounts too small to see.
People who use drugs can get HIV, hepatitis C and B from:
Sharing or reusing needles and syringes increases the chance of spreading HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Syringes with detachable needles increase this risk even more because they can retain more blood after they are used than syringes with fixed needles. If you inject drugs, ensure you always have your own new, clean needles and do not share with others.
Any equipment, such as cookers, cottons, water, ties, and alcohol swabs easily pick up these infections and spread them. Always ensure that you have your own equipment and do not share with others.
Crack pipes, straws and other equipment can also transmit hepatitis viruses. Always use your own equipment and do not share with others.
Fingers that come into contact with infected blood can spread hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Blood on fingers and hands can infect the injection site, cottons, cookers, ties and swabs.
The best way to prevent viral hepatitis is to stop injecting. Switching to smoking drugs, or using opioid- substitution therapy can lower your risk for hepatitis C.
If you are unable or unwilling to stop injecting drugs, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of becoming infected.
Always use sterile (new) needles, syringes and all equipment—cookers, cottons, water, ties, and alcohol swabs—every time you inject.
Set up a clean surface before putting down your injection equipment.
Do not divide and share drugs using equipment that has already been used.
Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water before and after injecting to remove blood or germs.
Clean injection site with alcohol or soap and water before injecting. Apply pressure to injection site with a sterile pad to stop any bleeding after injecting. Do not use an alcohol swab as bleeding will continue.
Do not inject another person. Only handle your own gear. If you do inject with other people, separate your equipment from others to avoid accidental sharing.
Dispose of your used needles safely by dropping them off at a needle disposal site.
Cleaning does not kill the hepatitis C and B virus.
Bleaching, boiling, burning, or using common cleaning fluids, alcohol, or peroxide will not kill the hepatitis B and C virus. It is better not to attempt to sterilize drug-use equipment. Rather ensure you always have your own and do not share with others.