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Hep B and relationship problems with girlfriend
Mar 12, 2005

I've been dating my girlfriend for almost a year. About 4 months ago, she was diagnosed with HPV (genital worts). We've had unprotected sex and I have had symptoms too. Our doctors said we would never know who gave it to who. We made it through this...But recently I was diagnosed with HepB. My family is from Vietnam and I found out that it runs in my family. When the results came back positive, I felt guilt at exposing it to my girlfiend. She has since tested negative and had her second vaccination shot. (Thank you God!). We are still together but she is afraid to be intimate with me. We hardly kiss anymore and we don't have sex. I know abstinence is the best form of protection but it has been hard. She will have her third shot in August (4months after her first). Is it "safe" for us to have protected sex in the mean time? Also my doctor said my levels of the virus were low. I can't remember the number or exactly what it was but he said it was below 100. Is this why my girlfriend didn't get infected(low levels in me)? When she is vaccinated and testpositive for the antibody, will it be safe for us to have unprotected sex? Does she need to have booster shots or screenings regularly? My doctor recommended me to have my levels tested yearly but said since it was relatively low, a liver biopsy was not needed.

I really love my girlfriend. I really hope that once the vaccination is completed our intimacy problems will go away. I can't blame her. Thank you for your help.

Response from Dr. McGovern

First of all - I am very impressed with all of your concerns for your partner. You are obviously a very caring partner.

The best answer here is to go to a physician together who is very knowledgeable about hepatitis B and to be counseled together. I think the problem here may be lack of information.

1. You are from a country where hepatitis B is endemic (very very common) so you would be at high risk of getting the infection. 2. Yes the vaccine is very protective. It may be worth getting an antibody level in your girlfriend after she is finished with all three shots to be certain that she has responded.Vaccination has been proven to be effective in preventing transmission. 3. Using condoms is my advice - ALWAYS - because it is the safest thing to do for prevention of all sexually transmitted viruses. Furthermore, your hepatitis B virus level could increase without warning. 4. Your relationship will improve over time - with education and counseling and reassurance. I do not think your partner will get hepatitis B from you if she is vaccinated. Using condoms would increase that to 100% protection. 5. You will need careful follow-up over time for your own health. There are multiple treatments available for hepatitis B and more are on the way.

Good luck and I know your situation will improve. Dr. McGovern



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