The hepatitis C virus usually spreads through blood. The most common way that people get it is from injecting drugs -- especially when they share needles or syringes. The risk of getting hepatitis C through sex is low, but it is possible.
Without using condoms, the following situations increase your risk of getting hepatitis C from sex:
- If you or your partner have HIV or another sexually transmitted disease
- Have multiple sexual partners
- Have rough sex that could cause tears or fissures
- Receiving anal intercourse
- Sex while menstruating
To lower your chances of getting infected by someone who has or may have hepatitis C or infecting your partner, avoid sex acts that could cause bleeding. These include using toys, receiving anal sex, and using drugs while having sex.
Don't have sex when you or your partner has your period or has genital sores.
Always use a condom when you have sex with a new partner.
If you use a sex toy that might break the skin, cover it with a condom. Put a new one on 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 makes serious, life-threatening complications -- including liver failure -- more likely.
Hepatitis C can also complicate HIV treatment and management.
Should You Get Tested?
The CDC recommends hepatitis C testing if you:
- Were born between 1945 and 1965
- Have used injected drugs
- Have HIV
- Were born to a mother who had hepatitis C
- Were treated for a blood clotting problem before 1987
- Got a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992
- Have been a long-term hemodialysis patient
- Work in health care or public safety and were exposed to blood through a needle stick 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.