Know Your Hepatitis B Status

Published: February 9, 2015

Ben Yi
Original Article:

Hepatitis B (Hep B) is an infectious disease caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV), which affects the liver. It can cause both acute and chronic infections.

Many people have no symptoms during the initial stage of HBV infection. The virus is transmitted by exposure to infectious blood or body fluids. Infection around the time of birth or from contact with other people during childhood is the most frequent method by which Hep B is acquired in areas where the disease is common.

The prevalence of Hep B in Australia is not evenly distributed among the population. It disproportionately affects people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background, individuals with a history of injecting drug use, gay men and other men who have sex with men, and migrant communities with origins in Asia, the Pacific and Africa. According to a 2011 study conducted by ASHM (the peak Australasian organisation supporting the HIV, viral hepatitis and sexual health workforce), 14,444 people were living with Chronic Hepatitis B (CHB) in South Australia (MacLauchlan, J., Cowie, B., 2013).

The prevalence of Hep B amongst gay men and men who have sex with men is rising. Transmission most commonly occurs through unprotected anal and oral intercourse. Gay men are generally less aware of Hep B transmission risks than they are for HIV.

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