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Hepatitis C (HCV) is a virus that causes serious damage to the liver. For some people this can lead to cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, and, in a small number of people, eventually to liver failure and death after many years.

Symptoms

In the early stages of hepatitis C, symptoms may be absent and they can take years after the initial infection to show up. If they are present, symptoms may include fatigue, nausea, pain under the ribs, sweating and intolerance of fatty diets.

75% of people infected with hep C may carry the virus in their blood for life and 15% of these people may develop cirrhosis of the liver. A small number of people with cirrhosis may develop liver cancer or liver failure.

How can you get it?

The virus is spread by blood to blood contact. Most hepatitis C is transmitted by sharing injecting equipment or other blood contact. However, there is now definitive evidence that it can be passed on during sex – and especially during group sex. It can also be transmitted when tiny amounts of blood are present on fingers, fists, toys or penises which are moved from one anus to the next without being cleaned.

How do you know if you have it?

Hepatitis C can be detected by a blood test.

STIs

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  • Chlamydia

    Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that can infect the mucous lining of the penis, anus or eyes.

    Keep reading…
  • Gonorrhoea

    Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection that lives in the mucous lining of the penis, throat, anus or eyes.

    Keep reading…
  • Herpes (HSV)

    Herpes (HSV) presents in two different types.

    Keep reading…
  • Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

    Human Papillomavirus (Warts) is the virus that can cause warts on the penis, anus or surrounding areas.

    Keep reading…
  • Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV)

    LGV is a particularly virulent form of the Chlamydia bacteria. It is still rare, but it may become more common over time.

    Keep reading…
  • HIV

    ​We comprehensively discuss HIV across our website, so we'll just cover the basics here. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It belongs to a group of viruses called retroviruses, which work by invading cells within the body then begin to continually reproduce itself.

    Keep reading…
  • Hepatitis A

    Hepatitis A causes inflammation in the liver and is the form of the virus which often comes on very quickly and is short-term but severe.

    Keep reading…
  • Hepatitis B

    Hepatitis B is a virus that causes inflammation of the liver. 

    Keep reading…
  • Syphilis

    Syphilis is a bacterial infection that infects the penis, throat or anus and then spreads to different parts of the body through the bloodstream.

    Keep reading…
  • Gut Infections

    Gut Infections are caused by bacteria (such as amoebiasis, shigellosis, giardiasis and salmonellosis).

    Keep reading…
  • Molloscum Contagiosum

    Molloscum Contagiosum (MC) is a virus that causes pimple-like lumps on the body.

    Keep reading…
  • Pubic Lice (Crabs)

    Pubic Lice (Crabs) are small parasites that grip onto the hair in the genital area.

    Keep reading…
  • Scabies

    Scabies are tiny mites (smaller than crabs) that burrow under the skin to lay eggs.

    Keep reading…
  • Thrush

    Thrush (or Candidiasis) is a yeast infection that irritates the mucous membranes around the genitals.

    Keep reading…
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Treatment

There have been major developments in hep C treatment and in most cases it can now be cured - there are funded treatment options available so make sure you speak to your doctor. Maintaining a healthy diet, reducing alcohol intake and cutting down on smoking can improve the body’s ability to cope with hepatitis C.

I'm living with HIV

Co-infection with hepatitis C and HIV is not uncommon. Talk to your specialist to discuss testing and treatment options if you are concerned you have symptoms or may have been exposed.

Prevention

People who inject drugs and share equipment are at a high risk of contracting hepatitis C. If injecting, do not share any equipment including spoons and tourniquets - remember the New Zealand Needle Exchange can help you access sterile injecting equipment, as well as dispose of used needles and syringes.

Wash your hands, dick and toys, and change condoms/gloves when changing partners during group sex.

For more information, you can go to the Hepatitis Foundation of New Zealand.

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