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Brothers, we want you to pay very close attention to this section on hepatitis. Information contained within can not only save your life, but also spare you, and your partners, a potential lifetime of pain and suffering. We do use a bit of strong language and speak frankly about some sexual activities between consenting adults. This approach was taken because we want you to take this virus very seriously and understand that some acts need to be addressed in this manner to protect you and your partners from infection.
This Piece breaks down hepatitis by letter (A and B), and makes distinctions between sexually transmitted activities and normal, day to day contacts. Each one is different, with some, (A and B) even having a vaccine and now (C) having an effective yet costly cure. So, read this carefully and learn to look for the signs of this illness which is second only to HIV in terms of long-term damage to gay dudes.
Hepatitis is a virus which inflames, scars and greatly damages the liver. The liver is a vital gland, located in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, which is responsible for a substantial amount of necessary bodily functions including processing waste and detoxifying the body. You cannot live without a liver unless you are on a dialysis machine, and even this expensive, time consuming, boring, and painful process is only temporary.
It is estimated that between 125,000 and 200,000 new cases of HEP A infections are reported each year, 78,000 new HEP B infections (with approximately 1.25 million chronically infected), and 25,000 new cases of HEP C infection, with an estimated population of 4 million Americans infected overall, with 2.7 million being chronic.
A liver transplant may be necessary if you severely damage your’s, and the United States has a very long waiting list. Even if you are one of the lucky few to be called from the list, compatibility and rejection are still major factors for potential rejection after surgery. Currently, around 6,000 transplants are done yearly, but another 16,000 people remain on the waiting list. We created this Piece to help you make healthy choices, and remain off of this list.
What the above means, is that if you do find yourself infected with one of the hepatitis strains, you are not alone. We at the Gay Male Journal will continue to remind you that an illness is not an indictment of you as a person, your self worth and value or even your basic critical thinking skills. Life happens to us all, and learning how to handle any illness, your’s or your partner’s, is simply a part of being an adult and being a man. No shame-blame.
A little tip about heavy, binge drinking and IV drug usage: These are excellent ways to ruin a perfectly good organ that you need to live. If you choose to indulge, everything in moderation is still a good motto to live by.
Viruses are tricky. In some people, symptoms manifest quickly, in others, they remain asymptotic, but contagious. Also vaccines and exposures can make you immune to infection. Hepatitis is no different, but there is a known list of physical signs that you should be aware of.
If you have to choose between which one of these strains to contract, this is the one you want to pull from the magic hat. Unfortunately, this is also the one many guys get without choosing because it is HIGHLY contagious.
HEP A is usually caused by drinking or eating food which is contaminated by feces, and this goes double for shellfish, unwashed vegetables, fruits and even undercooked food. This is the reason behind the “EMPLOYEES MUST WASH THEIR HANDS” signs inside of restaurant bathrooms, but is a very good habit to practice inside of your own home.
But, like with most viruses it may be contracted by having some form of physical contact with an infected person, who may, or may not, be showing symptoms. For many, the symptoms are mild and will go away on their own without causing long-term liver damage.
If you are the “favorite gay uncle” you may want to keep this in mind when being around the small ones, because they are the least likely to be symptomatic but are still carriers of the illness.
The good news is that if you are infected, with symptoms developing within two (2) to six (6) weeks, and lasting around eight (8) weeks, you will be immune for the rest of your life. This is also one of the two (2) forms of the virus where a vaccine is available. We STRONGLY ADVISE GETTING THESE SHOTS, if you have not already done so.
The United States of America is not known for having a very high HEP A infection rate, in comparison with some other developed countries, but outbreaks do occur and you should pay close attention when they show up on your local news program. But, if you are a traveller, especially to Asia, it is a good practice to be vaccinated.
Now things are getting a bit more serious. Door number two (2) of hepatitis can begin to create havoc in your life very quickly. Nearly 90% of infants who contract this strain from their mother will carry it for life. This means, some of you reading this Piece right now, already have HEP B. Most adults, who are exposed later in life, like HEP A, are able to clear the virus from their system without worry. But…if you cannot do so, the long term negative effects include liver damage, liver failure and even liver cancer!
HEP B is 100 times more contagious than HIV. YES, REALLY. Those in the age range of 20-29 currently have the highest infection rate in the United States.
Once again, there is good news. HEP B is not transmitted through casual contact, coughing or food sharing. And, just like HEP A, there is a vaccine. Get the damn shots!
HEP B is considered to be a sexually transmitted disease because it, like HIV, is blood and bodily fluid born. Meaning, some of our favorite sexual activities like “French kissing”, spit swapping, rimming and anal sex without proper protection (condoms/dental dams), may lead to infection. Oral sex, for either party, is not known to transmit HEP B.
But, just in case you thought it was safe to go back into the water, be aware that HEP B may also be transmitted from basic, but questionable practices like sharing a toothbrush, razors, toe nail clippers and for you drug users, NEEDLES. Those in a relationship, either long term or for the night, should take heed of this information and take proper precautions. Communication about HEP B is also a very important prevention tool, even for a one-night-stand, but just in case, it is better to look like a “whore”, carrying your very own toothbrush in your back pocket on every date, than contract HEP B from sharing a stranger’s in the morning.
For most guys, the best treatment for HEP A and B is to just ride it out. Bed rest, fluids and a diet high in protein and carbohydrates is the preffered medicine to heal your liver. Avoid alcohol and sexual acts during this period as your liver does not need to do any more heavy lifting and you are still highly contagious.
Between 90-95% of those infected with A or B will recover without medication. The others will need some form of medical assistance. For this population, now faced with a chronic illness, two drugs have been shown to have good success in treating up to 40% of the infected. For 15-25% of those diagnosed with chronic Hep A/B, liver disease and death may follow.