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Sexual transmission of HCV
May 16, 2004

Dear Dr.,

I just found out that a girl I was dating was HCV positive. We had sex when she was on her period, which started that night. She found out by chance really, so can you tell me if I would have this? I know there had to have been blood present.

Please help, it hasn't been very long, and I just read that it can take up to 6 months to find. She is now a good friend and we're both worried about this.

Thank you for your time.

Response from Dr. McGovern

Although it is true that hepatitis C can be spread sexually, this does not occur often. Even though there was presence of blood, two things would still need to occur to facilitate transmission: 1) your partner would need to have hepatitis C virus present in her blood and 2) there would need to be breakdown of your skin barriers. Also female to male transmission for all sexually transmitted diseases is lower than male to female transmission. One study suggested that this is true for hepatitis C also.

I would recommend the following: a) baseline testing for hepatitis C antibody for you with follow-up. b) never have unprotected sex with your partner due to risk of other sexually transmitted viruses. If you have never had HIV testing, I would also get a baseline test for this too. After that safe sex needs to be your new resolution! c) If you acquired HCV now - although I would put this risk as exceedingly low - the good news is that treatment early on cures most people. Dr. McGovern



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