HIV and Hepatitis: Important Facts

When it comes to HIV and Hepatitis there are some important facts to know about how co-infection with both can impact the body.

While HIV and the various versions of Hepatitis are both unique and affect the body in separate ways, when someone has both HIV and a version of Hepatitis that can complicate a person’s health and medical treatment immensely. Due to a weaker immune system all the forms of Hepatitis can progress faster and cause more liver-related problems in someone with HIV–liver disease has actually become one of the larger non-AIDS related causes of death in people living with HIV. Here is a breakdown of the most common forms of Hepatitis and the risks they pose.

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Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A impacts the liver (much like the other versions of Hepatitis) but is primarily spread through feces infected with HEP-A. To avoid this illness it is always a smart choice to thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables, and avoid purchasing food at any eating establishments with questionable hygiene. There is a vaccine for Hepatitis A, and often those whose employment involves the handling or cooking of food are required to be vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Considering how it can badly damaged the liver, when it comes to the spread of Hepatitis B, it is worth noting that HEP-B is often spread through blood as well as sexual contact. As these are the same ways HIV can be spread someone co-infected with both therefore runs the risk of transmitting HIV and HEP-B if sharing needles or engaging in unprotected sex. If someone lowers their risk of one they will therefore lower their risk of infection with the other. There is a vaccine for Hepatitis B, so that can assist in lowering risk also.

Hepatitis C

Did you know that one-quarter (25%) of people infected with HIV also have Hepatitis C? It is an alarming fact considering how HEP-C can severely harm someone’s health. HEP-C is found in the blood, so among injection drug-users the co-infection rate for both illnesses can be anywhere from 50% of HIV-infected injection drug users to 90% in a region. As Hepatitis C is the number one cause of liver cancer and treatment can be a long and difficult process (although new discoveries have helped with treatment) it is dangerous for someone who may already have a compromised immune system from HIV to also have HEP-C and its affects to deal with. As there is no vaccine for Hepatitis C the high co-infection rate can best be dealt with through precautionary measures such as never sharing needles.

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Prevention is Key

With the threat to health posed by Hepatitis itself and especially when there is co-infection with HIV it is clear that prevention is a key factor in staying safe. Being vaccinated against HEP-A and HEP-B is always a wise choice, and one worth exploring if you think you’re at a greater risk for becoming infected (and with no vaccine for HEP-C prevention is paramount). Overall, if someone makes sure they are practicing good food hygiene, engaging in safer-sex, and never share needles, he or she is engaging in the ways to lower one’s risk of the various forms of Hepatitis.



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