Hepatitis A and B
The different types of Hepatitis are some of the most common diseases in the world. The Hepatitis A and B combination vaccine protects from the liver infections caused by both the Hepatitis A and B viruses.
We recommend that gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men get vaccinated for both Hepatitis A and B. Starting in November 2017, the Finnish National Vaccination Programme includes free Hepatitis A and B vaccinations for all men who have sex with men. If you identify as a man who has sex with men, you can get the vaccinations at your own health center or at Hivpoint.
Hepatitis C is the most common form of Hepatitis in Finland. It is transmitted through contact with blood. If infected blood gets in contact with mucous membranes during sex, there is a risk of infection. There is no vaccination against Hepatitis C. Most people do not get any symptoms when infected.
Globally Hepatitis C infections have increased among men having sex with men, mostly due to unprotcted anal sex. In Finland, about 1000 nex infections of Hepatitis C are diagnosted yearly, out of which most among injecting drug users. Less than 100 of these are estimated to be through sexual transmission.
How does Hepatitis C transmit through sex?
Hepatitis C can transmit if infected blood gets into contact with the mucous membranes, for example in unprotected anal sex, fisting or thorough sharing sex toys. In practice the risk for Hepatitis C infection is significant in all sexual practices where mucous membranes can tear or bleeding occurs. The virus remains infectious outside the body much longer than HIV, which means that Hepatitis C transmits much easier than HIV during unprotected sex.
How can you protect yourself?
Protecting yourself from Hepatitis C is done in the same way as protecting yourself from HIV. Practicing safer sex includes using a condom and a water or silicone based lubricant during sex. During fisting you should use disposable gloves and a lot of lubricant. Sex toys should be washed between users or a condom should be used and changed between users. In group sex, condoms should be changed for each partner and disposable gloves should be changed between each partner when fisting.
Hepatitis C testing in basic health care
Because Hepatitis C is most common among injecting drug users, your healthcare provider may not offer you a Hepatitis C test. This means that you should be able to ask for the test, if you have had a risk situation.
Hepatitis C is tested through a blood test. It usually takes a long time (1-4 months) for Hepatitis C antibodies to form after infection. If you get a positive Hepatitis C test through antibody testing, the results are always confirmed through a different kind of test. To find out if you have the virus, a HCV-RNA-PCR test is usually done to find out if you have the Hepatitis C virus in your blood. If the virus isn’t found through this test, you have been cured from Hepatitis C spontaneously.
Rapid testing of Hepatitis C
As for HIV, rapid tests for Hepatitis C also exist. The Hepatitis C rapid test is done by taking a drop of blood from your fingertip and the result appears 20 minutes later. The rapid test also looks for antibodies. The test does not specify if the infection is a new acute infection, an infection you’ve had for a longer time, a spontaneously cured Hepatitis C infection or an untreated infection. Hepatitis C antibodies stay in your body even if the infection would have been cured.
Throughout the European HIV and Hepatitis testing week Hivpoint in Helsinki, Oulu and Tampere offer many opportunities for HIV and Hepatitis C testing (based on needs assessment) and Hepatitis A and B vaccinations for men who have sex with men. If you wish to get tested for Hepatitis C, be prepared to show your ID. HIV testing is anonymous, as always.
Additionally men who have sex with men can get the Hepatitis A and B vaccinations in Hivpoint’s Helsinki office.
HIV and Hepatitis C testing events and Hepatitis A and B vaccinations at Hivpoint:
Glögi and gingerbread cookies will be offered during all testing events on HIV-Hepatitis testing week!
Walk-in testing for migrants and refugees: Anonymous and free HIV testing and based on a needs assessment the possibility to get tested for Hepatitis C. Monday 20.11.2017 at 14-18. Hivpoint, Unioninkatu 45 K, Helsinki.
Checkpoint testing for men who have sex with men: Anonymous and free HIV testing and based on a needs assessment the possibility to get tested for Hepatitis C. Hepatitis A and B vaccinations. Thursday 23.11.2017 at 14-18. Hivpoint, Unioninkatu 45 K, Helsinki.
Checkpoint testing for men who have sex with men: Anonymous and free HIV testing and based on a needs assessment the possibility to get tested for Hepatitis C. Tuesday 21.11.2017 at 14-18. Possibility to get tested also for syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea. Hivpoint, Aleksanterinkatu 29 A 29, Tampere.
Checkpoint testing for men who have sex with men: Anonymous and free HIV testing and based on a needs assessment the possibility to get tested for Hepatitis C. Friday 24.11.2017 at 13-17. Possibility to get tested also for syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea. Hivpoint, Kumppanuuskeskus, Kansankatu 53, 1st floor, Oulu.