HEP B and HIV
Aug 31, 2001
Years ago when the HEP B vaccine became available I wanted to get it. The clinic told me I had already been exposed to HEP B although I never felt sick from it. In 1999 I got HIV.
Can I still get sick from HEP B, and will HIV make this more likely?
Response from Dr. Pavia
Good question that may be relevant to many readers. Many gay men or people who have used injection drugs, or had sex with IDU's have had hepatitis B. The majority of people do not recognize the initial infection. Two things can then happen. You can clear the infection totally (no virus is found in your blood or liver) and remain immune to hep B. This sounds as if it is what happened to you. The other direction is to develop chronic infection, where the virus continues to grow in your liver and be found in the blood and other body fluids.
The blood tests we do sort this out. Your doctors will have tested you to see if you have antibody to Hep B (indicating immunity), or Hep B SAg (a way of detecting circulating virus). As far as we know, once you have cleared it, it will not reactivate. As long as you have antibody, you are not susceptible to getting Hep B, whether or not you have HIV. So, you don't have to worry about hep B. If there is any question, you can get your antibody levels re checked. This might make sense if the original records are very old or not available.
Just to end on a down note, none of this protects you against hepatitis C. If you are hep C negative, the best way to stay that way is not to share needles, straws or other blood contact. You can get Hep C from unprotected sex as well, although funnily enough, it is harder to catch it that way.
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