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The Resource Train
A Look at Hepatitis

By Terri L. Wilder, M.S.W.

September 2000

HIV and Hepatitis

I know that recently a great deal has been written about hepatitis. As a matter of fact, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association has endorsed universal vaccinations for MSMs (men who have sex with men) against hepatitis A and B as well as injection drug users. Because HIV and hepatitis are both transmitted by the same means, we are finding that a number of people with HIV are also living with hepatitis. In this article, I want to cover the basics for our first time readers, as well as cover some information that is not so widely known.

At this time, hepatitis C is an epidemic. In response to this, many organizations have initiated educational campaigns to get the word out about this virus. Remember, Knowledge = Power, and at this time information is our most powerful tool in our fight against hepatitis. Read! Get tested! Get vaccinated!

The Facts

(Information provided by American Liver Foundation -- Georgia Chapter, HIV Frontline, Schering Corporation, The Body and Positively Aware.)

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis C

Common Questions about Hepatitis

(Information taken from e-mail questions to Dr. Dieterich with The Body.

Q: What causes hepatitis?

A: Hepatitis is a term for inflammation of the liver. It can be caused by drugs, alcohol or viruses.

Q: Could you please let me know what diseases can be caused by HCV? Is arthritic joints one of them?

A: Yes. Many people with HCV have joint pains. The three classic illnesses caused by it are cryoglobulinemia, which causes antibodies to clog up in the cold, porphyrea cutanea tarda, which causes skin rashes and a constellation of other problems. Arthritis (the third) is a very common disease, so make sure you get your hepatitis treated.

Q: How does hepatitis C affect AIDS?

A: There are several studies, one from Italy and one from the Atlanta VA, that suggest that HCV has no effect on HIV. However, it does appear that some studies show the opposite effect (i.e., that HCV does increase perinatal transmission and decreases T-cells). A study from England has shown that genotype 1 HCV patients die from AIDS much faster than all other genotypes. There is not a clear answer to this question. Both diseases should be treated by experienced health care providers.

Q: How long will the liver stay healthy in a person who has both hepatitis C and AIDS?

A: In an individual case, there is really no guessing without a biopsy. However, the population statistics indicate that the median or average time to cirrhosis in people who do not have HIV is about 20 years and it is about 10 years in people who have HIV. The course of disease is about twice as fast in the HIV-infected community.

Q: What is the possible danger of antiretroviral therapy with a gallon-a-week drinker who has HBV and HIV?

A: The danger is not from the antiretroviral therapy, but from the alcohol. It will accelerate the course to cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease. The alcohol needs to stop ASAP.

Q: Is it possible for HCV to be dormant and not show up on previous blood tests and then all of a sudden have a raised liver enzyme? I had a normal blood test about a year before the raised liver enzyme test. I had no transfusions or intravenous use of needles, but my spouse was having an affair in that interim period. Is it possible it was sexually transmitted to me since I did not have these enzymes prior?

A: It is possible to transmit hepatitis C sexually, but it is rare. The enzymes are a very unreliable test and both of you should have a quantitative PCR test of the virus to be certain of the diagnosis . If you have it, you should be seen by an experienced clinician of hepatitis and evaluated for therapy!

Q: Do the hepatitis vaccines work on all three strains?

A: There are very effective vaccines for both hepatitis A and hepatitis B. In fact there may be one shot that combines both vaccines coming out soon. There is unfortunately no vaccine for hepatitis C.

Q: How are the three strains of hepatitis contracted by people?

A: Hepatitis A is transmitted by mouth. It has to be swallowed, so that it is usually transmitted by food, although oral/anal sex is another way to get it. Hepatitis B is transmitted through sex and blood, but most commonly sex. Hepatitis C is usually spread by blood, the most common way is through shared needles used for drug use. The risk of sexual transmission of hepatitis C is low except if people have sexually transmitted diseases as well or HIV.

Risk Factors

Finally, if you answer "yes" to any of these questions you could be at risk for hepatitis, and should consider going to get tested for hepatitis:


In Georgia:

American Liver Foundation
Hepatitis and Liver Disease Support Group
2nd Thursday of Each Month
7:00 to 8:30 p.m.
HEP 101 workshop

AID Atlanta (in Georgia)
Information on Hepatitis A, B, C; Community presentations; Written materials; Referrals for vaccines.


National Liver Foundation Hotline

HepB Foundation
Doylestown, PA

Latino Organization for Liver Awareness
Provides counseling for people with liver disease.
English and Spanish

Hepatitis Education Project

The Hepatitis Usenet Group

Hep C Connection
Call for referrals to support groups in your area, if one exists.

The Hepatitis C Foundation

The Body
An AIDS and HIV Information Resource Hepatitis section at The Body

HIV and

Hepatitis Newsletter
McMillen Communications

Hepatitis Foundation International
Newsletter, find a support group near you, physician referral.

Hepatitis C Action and Advocacy Coalition
haac_sf@ .com

This article was provided by AIDS Survival Project. It is a part of the publication Survival News. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:

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