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Sexual Transmission of Hepatitis C
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Sexual Transmission of Hepatitis C

Last fall my doctor ordered that I have blood work done, and  high liver enzymes were indicated when it came back. As a result, he ordered a test for Hepatitis B/C. When I tested positive for the Hepatitis C antibody, he ordered a test to determine whether I had the virus. As it turns out, I do and am in the process of evaluating treatment options.

When we found out that I had tested positive, my wife was also tested and there was no indication that she has Hepatitis C. My doctor didn't say anything about a need to use condoms. However, she has just seen a new doctor who says that they are necessary.

Here are my questions...

1. Is there any evidence that the Hepatitis C virus can be transmitted through semen?

2. How much risk does my wife have of getting the virus from me through sexual contact?

3. Do condoms provide adequate protection from the possibility of getting the virus through sexual contact?

4. What other precautions do we need to take to minimize the risk to my wife?

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16 Comments Post a Comment
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Avatar_m_tn
HCV is a blood bourne disease.  As such, it can be an STD if the acts you are engauged in result in a transfer of blood between the partners.
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179856_tn?1333550962
The chances are VERY VERY LOW that you can get it that way. The doctors tell us to practice safeR sex practices - if we are in a monogamous relationship having safeR sex makes it practically impossible.

However as it is a blood borne disease - if you do happen to share blood somehow (a sore, a cut) during sex well it would be very possible.

We picture giant volumes of blood but we have to remember that there are microdroplets of blood that are invisible to our naked eye - and since the virus is so so much smaller than that even it is possible.

Just not so likely.

I was married to a man who had the virus and gave birth to two children. Didn't have a CLUE I had it. But the kids were fine. And they got loads of my blood and still didn't get it.

So if you see what I'm trying to say - if you practice safeR sex practices...you should be just FINE.

While it's not impossible - it is hard to get it that way.
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Avatar_m_tn
If I'm not mistaken, the stern warning on doubly protected sex for many of us is because of the high risk of birth defects due to the Riba within a 2 year window if taking it.
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151263_tn?1243377877
In the Vertex trial we have to sign an agreement to not get pregnant or impregnate anyone else for I believe it was until six months post treatment(?). We had to agree to use two types of birth control simultaneously. As far as I know, the ribavirin is the primary risk factor, as it's "teratogenic". (i.e. causing birth defects)
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Avatar_m_tn
It means you can't do the wild thang! Just the regular love making!
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Avatar_m_tn
Last time I checked, the "official" advice was that monagamous couples don't need to use barrier protection as long as they didn't engage in "high-risk" sexual exploits which I believes includes anal sex. As far as studies go, they conflict but that's no surprise. But even by the most cynical estimates, your chances of giving HCV to your partner during your sexual lifetime are quite low. How low? Well, my guess is as good as anyone's so I'd say around 1% from what I've read.
But that also means that 1 out of a 100 couples could pass the virus sexually, and that would be more likely from male to female.  

If I was in your situation, I'd have a frank discussion with your wife and lay out the facts. Is a 1% chance enough of a reason to use condoms during sex? How will using condoms effect your sex life and relationship? Let her decide because there is no right answer.

All the best,

-- Jim
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Avatar_n_tn
My wife and I are monogamous, but I'm not sure what you mean by safeR sex.

Thanks
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Avatar_m_tn
I think she means no back door or wall banging pounding etc... the fun stuff, the wild thang!
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Avatar_m_tn
Monagamous or not, even a condom is not a 100% guarantee against impregnation.  Given the *very* high risk of birth defects associated with Riba, unless one is comfortable with aborting (which could probably start a discussion all it's own that might be better suited for the chit-chat forum), it would seem that the safer the better would be a good rule of thumb to follow.

As for HCV transmission, I've heard some tales where even monogamous relationships can be as, if not more so, risky.  But, that too might be a better topic for the other forum as well.
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Avatar_n_tn
Your point is well taken. I found a fact sheet that included the topic of bleeding gums and saliva on hcvadvocate.org. My gums do bleed from time to time, and after reading their information, I'm not even sure it's safe for me to kiss her deeply.
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Avatar_n_tn
Jim,

Thanks for your comments. To me a 1% risk of infecting my wife is unacceptable. As you said, that means a 1 in 100 chance that I will infect her.

On the other hand, the effect of condoms on the sex and relationship between my wife and I is a problem. When she came home and told me her doctor's recommendation, my response was that if we're going to use them we may as well not have sex at all. That didn't go over very well, and this has been one of the most difficult disagreements we've had in our 17 months of marriage.

After giving it a lot of thought, I'm now at the point of agreeing with you, that she should make the final decision. If she wants it with a condom, that's what we'll do.

Thanks again!
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Avatar_m_tn
In a study with a large group of couples that was done over a long period of time (a decade) not one of the Hep C positive partners passed the virus on to their mates.

It is a blood to blood disease, you can not pass it through bodily fluids like Hep B.

Blood to blood would mean your blood would have to get inside her through a cut or a sore or something. SO far in 17 months she hasn't gotten it, right?

I agree the decision should be up to her, after all she is the one taking the risk. I would have been upset with you if you were my husband and didn't agree to whatever I felt comfortable with whatever had to be done to make me feel safe, I can see why you fought. Even the small risk of getting it IS avoidable. Try to see it from her perspective. If you undergo treatment you absolutely have to use condoms,it is recommended you use double condoms because it is so dangerous to risk pregnancy while on the meds. The meds can cause birth defects.One warning on the meds is that a pregnamt woman is not supposed to even touch the pills!

I and many others here have been married many years (27 for me)and our partners remain negative.



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Avatar_m_tn
You might first want your wife to speak to your doctor. Her doctor -- or with many people *any* doctor -- saying something can be a deal breaker. It's like the white coat trumps everything else. Maybe if she hears it from another doctor's point of view then she can come to a more objective decision regarding condoms. Again, unless they've changed, current guidelines do not suggest condom use for hetero monagamous couples who do not engage in high risk sex. It's not a clear cut issue, but many here have had longstanding marriages without condom use and no problems. Maybe reading her some of those posts might help as well. Good luck!

-- Jim
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Avatar_n_tn
Im not sure, Im still confused about the study of this disease. I brought it on my self. Using drugs. I have two children one 19 who at that time had more chance of catching it and one who is 9. I dont know how to feel but dirty for having it, the only reason I have it is because i used IUV drugs. My kids are fine, me I like to have a drink, that will kill my liver though. Wont it
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Avatar_n_tn
Im not sure, Im still confused about the study of this disease. I brought it on my self. Using drugs. I have two children one 19 who at that time had more chance of catching it and one who is 9. I dont know how to feel but dirty for having it, the only reason I have it is because i used IUV drugs. My kids are fine, me I like to have a drink, that will kill my liver though. Wont it
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Avatar_f_tn
my husband has hcv. Im curious what the risks of sexual transmission are if we have unprotected sex when im menstrating. is there a higher risk then normal sex?
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