Is it safe to have sex with an HIV positive person?
Is Sex Safe If One Person Has Hepatitis C?
Can Hepatitis C Be Spread During Vaginal Sex?
It’s rare for the hepatitis C virus to be transmitted through vaginal intercourse because, unless the vaginal walls aren’t lubricated or intercourse is very rough and leads to tears in the vaginal wall, there’s no opportunity for blood to be exchanged. The risk for transmission with vaginal intercourse is about 1 in 190,000, according to research published in the March 2013 issue of the journal Hepatology.
Research published in theJournal of Coagulation Disordersin March 2014 reinforces these findings, emphasizing that transmission of the hepatitis C virus by sex in monogamous heterosexual couples is rare. The “consideration of condom use to further reduce the already extremely low risk of sexual hepatitis C virus transmission to zero” is an option for couples if there’s anxiety around this, the researchers add. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) clearly states that couples in monogamous heterosexual relationships do not need to use condoms routinely, even if one partner has hepatitis C.
But just how safe sex is when a partner has hepatitis C hinges on some other factors as well. For example, it’s important to use a new condom with each sexual act that has the potential to expose the uninfected partner to the infected person’s blood, even if you’re in a committed relationship, says the CDC. Some of these situations include sex when you or your partner:
- Has an open cut or sore
- Has another sexually transmitted disease (STD), especially one that causes sores or lesions
- Is having her menstrual period
What to Know About Hepatitis C During Oral and Anal Sex
Oral sex does not pose risk of transmission of the hepatitis C virus, according to the American Liver Foundation, unless there are open sores or cuts in the mouth. To be safe, however, the CDC recommends using a new latex condom (or, if you’re allergic to latex, you can use polyurethane) whenever you have oral sex.
Anal sex is high-risk, though, because rectal tissue is fragile and can easily tear when manipulated or pushed to expand. If the tissue tears and bleeds, there’s a chance for blood-to-blood contact. For this reason, the CDC recommends using a condom every time you have anal sex.
Sex toys like vibrators are a part of many people’s sex lives as well. If you use them, don’t share them, as even tiny traces of infected blood remaining on the toy can pass through openings in the skin.
For Safer Sex, Treat Hepatitis C
One of the best strategies for preventing transmission of the hepatitis C virus is to get medical treatment. Most cases of hepatitis C can be cured, says Kenneth Sherman, MD, PhD, professor of clinical medicine and director of the division of digestive diseases at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio. Newer hepatitis C treatments are not only effective but generally have few side effects.
Just be aware that during treatment, transmission can still occur. And a cure doesn’t grant you protection against the virus for life. “If you continue to engage in high-risk behavior, you can get re-infected,” Dr. Sherman warns.
More Ways to Reduce the Risk of Infection
If you aren’t sure whether you have hepatitis C, get tested. Testing is especially important if you have sex with more than one person, since the odds increase that you’ll either infect others or get infected yourself. Also get tested if you have other risk factors for hepatitis C, including being born being 1945 and 1965, having had a blood transfusion prior to 1992, and injecting drugs (even if you’ve only done it once).
Talk to your partner about getting tested as well, for hepatitis C and other STDs, so you know the risks before having sex. “People who are at risk for hepatitis C are also at risk for HIV and other STDs,” emphasizes Talal.
Building Healthy Sexual Relationships
Rule number one for a healthy sexual relationship: Be open and honest with your partners. “I believe in transparency,” says Talal. This conversation can be difficult, but it’s important to have. Part of discussing your status is talking about what exposure you may have had to hepatitis C, even in the distant past.
It’s a good opportunity for you both to share your sexual history, as well as your experiences with other ways hepatitis C can be transmitted, such as using injection drugs and being exposed to items that may have blood on them, including needles, razors, and toothbrushes, the CDC warns.
Sherman explains that even if you consistently use condoms during sex, other activities, such as sharing needles to inject drugs or sharing straws to snort them, increase your risk of spreading (or getting) hepatitis C. “People do not want to hear about this,” he says. “It’s difficult to get the word out about risk.”
If you and your partner find that hepatitis C is disrupting your relationship or your sex life, you might also consider working with a marriage and family therapist or a sex therapist.
Video: Is It Safe To Be Sexually Intimate With Someone With Herpes?
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