Hepatitis B & C
What it is
Hepatitis B is caused by the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV). HBV is much more infectious than HIV and can be transmitted through sexual contact and contact with blood or blood-stained saliva and urine.
Many people with Hepatitis B will not have any symptoms. Others will have flu-like symptoms and jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes).
How it is treated
There is no specific treatment for Hepatitis B but there is a vaccine against the virus available at sexual health clinics. Most people with Hepatitis B recover completely after rest, but in some cases there may be long-term liver damage.
What is it
Hepatitis C is caused by the hepatitis C virus and is present in the blood. To a much lesser extent, it can be present in the saliva and semen or vaginal fluid of an infected person.
How is it passed on?
It is particularly concentrated in the blood, so it is usually transmitted through blood-to-blood contact. The most common way you can become infected is by sharing contaminated needles to inject drugs.
The course of hepatitis C is unpredictable: some people fight off the infection and experience no ill health. Others may develop liver damage, which sometimes progresses to cirrhosis (severe scarring of the liver) and even liver failure. There is currently no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C.
Treatment with drugs called interferon and ribavirin can clear the infection in approximately half of those who are infected, but there are significant side effects.