13,000 people who are living with HIV in the UK may also have Hepatitis C but not realise it, according to a new report published in the Journal of Viral Hepatitis. That represents nearly 70% of the total estimate of people with HIV and Hepatitis C in the UK. The report is based on a study by the UK Collaborative HIV Cohort, which indicates that gay men remain a high risk group, second only to injecting drug users, with 7% of HIV-positive gay men known to have Hepatitis C.
The study looked at 31,765 patients provided with care at ten specialist HIV clinics between 1996 and 2007. 36% had never been tested for Hepatitis C, despite guidelines from BHIVA (British HIV Association) recommending screening for all HIV-positive patients.
Much of the increase of Hepatitis C among HIV-positive gay men is now understood to be due to sexual transmission. If left untreated, the virus can lead to an increased risk of cirrhosis, liver cancer and even premature death. Re-infection is also fairly common.
GMFA highlighted a number of ways that Hepatitis C can be transmitted, which include fisting, sharing sex toys, sharing pots of lube, and fucking without condoms. In group sex, the virus is often spread from one man to another (one arse to another arse) if condoms – or gloves for fisting – aren’t changed between partners, or if sex toys are used on one man and then another. It can also be transmitted by sharing drug-injecting needles or snorting straws.