Hepatitis C is a contagious liver disease caused by HCV, the hepatitis C virus. The disease is passed from person to person.
Common to many other infections, Hep C lives in blood and bodily fluids. Can Hep C be transmitted through sperm? Yes, Hep C can be transmitted by contact with bodily fluids including saliva or semen of an infected person. It is very rare, but it is possible.
According to a study in 2013, 1 out of every 190,000 instances of heterosexual contact led to Hep C transmission (all participants in the study were in monogamous sexual relationships.)
A person is more likely to contract the disease through sexual contact if they:
- Have multiple sexual partners
- Participate in rough sex, which could result in broken skin and bleeding
- Do not use a protective barrier like condoms
- Use protective barriers improperly
- Have a sexually transmitted infection or HIV
Can you get Hepatitis C from oral sex?
There has been no evidence to prove you can contract Hep C from oral sex. However, it may still be possible if blood is present from either person. For example, the risk is greater if any of the following are present:
- Menstrual blood
- Bleeding gums
- Throat infections
- Cold sores
- Genital warts
- Any breaks in the skin around involved areas
Although sexual transmission of Hep C is rare, it is more likely to spread through anal sex than oral sex because rectal tissue is more likely to tear during intercourse.
How else can Hep C be spread?
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, sharing needles with people is the most common way to contract the HCV virus. Less common ways include sharing personal hygiene products with an infected person, including:
- Nail clippers
However, Hep C cannot be transmitted through casual contact with infected persons, like sharing cups or cutlery. Holding hands, hugging, and even kissing won’t spread the virus.
So who is at risk for Hep C?
People who have used injected drugs at any time are at the greatest risk for contracting Hep C. A coinfection of HIV and Hep C is common. This is because the two diseases have similar risk factors, including needle sharing and unprotected sex.
Prior to 1992, if you received a blood transfusion or an organ transplant you may also be at risk for Hep C. During this time, blood tests weren’t as sensitive to Hep C so the possibility of receiving tainted blood was much higher.
Tips for preventing Hep C transmission through sexual contact
If you are sexually active with a person who is Hep C positive, there are ways that you can lower the risk of contracting the virus or of infecting others if you have it.
- Use a condom during every sexual encounter
- Learn to use all sexual barriers correctly to prevent tearing
- Do not engage in sexual contact if your partner has an open cut or wound around their genitals
- Always get tested regularly and ask sexual partners to get tested too
The bottom line
- Gamal Shiha; Nasser Mousa; Reham Soliman; Nabiel NNH Mikhail; Mohamed Adel Elbasiony; Mahmoud Khattab. (2020). Incidence of HCC in Chronic Hepatitis C Patients With Advanced Hepatic Fibrosis who Achieved SVR Following DAAs. J Viral Hepat.
- D Raben; M Hoekstra; L Combs; AK Sullivan; JV Lazarus; JS Lambert; D Simões; A Streinu-Cercel; JK Rockstroh. (2020). A Call to Action Toward Integrated Testing and Earlier Care for Viral Hepatitis, HIV, STIs and TB. HIV Medicine.
- Yanli Deng; Fiona Campbell; Kelong Han; Dickens Theodore; Mark Deeg; Michael Huang; Robert Hamatake; Soumi Lahiri; Shuguang Chen; Gabor Horvath; Spilios Manolakopoulos; George N. Dalekos; George Papatheodoridis; Ioannis Goulis; Tivadar Banyai; Bernd Jilma; Martin Leivers. (2020). Randomized Clinical Trials Towards a Single-visit Cure for Chronic Hepatitis C. J Viral Hepat.
- Failal I, Ezzaki S, Mtioui N, Khayat S, Zamed M, Medkouri G, Benghanem M, Ramdani B. (2020). Prevalence of Viral Hepatitis C in Hemodialysis of the Casablanca-Settat Region. Clinical Microbiology.
- Andrew I. Kim, MD, Sammy Saab, MD, MPH. Treatment of hepatitis C. The American Journal of Medicine.
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