Can I Get Hepatitis C From Sex?

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. But it's possible to get the disease through sex.

It's more likely to happen if you or your partner have HIV or another sexually transmitted disease, have rough sex, or have more than one sex partner.

Take Precautions

To lower your chances of getting the disease, avoid sex acts that could cause bleeding. These include using toys, having 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 disease and 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.
  • Ever injected drugs.
  • Have HIV or AIDS.
  • 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.
  • Ever had hemodialysis.
  • Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease.
  • 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.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on October 26, 2015

Sources

SOURCES:

American Liver Foundation: "Hep C 1-2-3: Who Is at Risk for Hepatitis C?"

Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology: "Hepatitis C Screening for Baby Boomers."

CDC: "Hepatitis B and Sexual Health."

CDC: "Hepatitis C FAQs for the Public."

Jeff Crippin, MD, professor of medicine and medical director, liver transplantation, Washington University School of Medicine.

David K. Wong, MD, clinical director, Francis Family Liver Clinic, Toronto Western Hospital.

Terrault, N. Hepatology, March 2013.

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs: "Hepatitis C: Telling Others and Finding Support."

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