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Hepatitis C and Sex

The hepatitis C virus usually spreads through blood. The most common way that people get hepatitis C is through injection drug use, including sharing needles or syringes -- not through sex. But it's possible to get hepatitis C through sex. 

You're more likely to get hepatitis C through sex if you or your partner have HIV or another sexually transmitted disease, have rough sex, or have more than one sex partner.

To lower your chances of getting hepatitis C through sex, avoid sex acts that could cause bleeding. These include using sex toys, having anal sex, and using drugs while having sex.

Also avoid having sex when you or your partner has your period or has genital sores.

Always use a condom if you're in a new relationship. Also, you're less likely to get hepatitis C if you have only one partner.

If you use sex toys that might break the skin, use a condom over the toy. Change the condom before someone else uses the toy.

What About Kissing?

Not a problem. You can't get the hepatitis C virus through kissing, hugging, or holding hands. It's not easy to catch hepatitis C in everyday life.

Hepatitis C and HIV

People with HIV are more likely to have hepatitis C. About one in 4 people in the U.S. who have HIV also have hepatitis C, according to the CDC.

Having both HIV and hepatitis C makes serious, life-threatening complications -- including liver disease and liver failure -- more likely.

Hepatitis C can also complicate HIV treatment and management.

Should You Get Tested for Hepatitis C?

The CDC recommends hepatitis C testing if:

  • You were born between 1945 and 1965.
  • You've ever used injection drugs.
  • You have HIV or AIDS.
  • You were born to a mother who had hepatitis C.
  • You were treated for a blood clotting problem before 1987.
  • You got a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992.
  • You're getting hemodialysis.
  • You have abnormal liver tests or liver disease.
  • You work in health care or public safety and were exposed to blood through a needlestick or other sharp object injury.

If you get tested and find out you have hepatitis C, tell your sex partner(s) and anyone else who may have been exposed to your blood, including through drug use.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Arefa Cassoobhoy, MD, MPH on October 02, 2013

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