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HIV and Hepatitis B.

  • What is hepatitis B?

  • How does HBV spread from person to person?

  • What is the connection between HIV and HBV?

  • Can HBV infection be prevented?

  • Should people with HIV get tested for HBV?

  • What are the symptoms of HBV infection?

  • What is the treatment for HBV?

What is hepatitis B?

Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The abbreviation HBV can stand for either the virus or the infection it causes.

HBV can be a short-term (acute) or a long-term (chronic) illness:

  • Acute HBV occurs within 6 months after a person is exposed to HBV. In some people, acute HBV can lead to chronic HBV.

  • Chronic HBV is a lifelong disease. Without treatment, chronic HBV can cause liver cancer or liver damage that leads to liver failure.

HBV is a contagious infection that can spread from person to person.

 

How does HBV spread from person to person?

HBV is spread through contact with the blood, semen, or other body fluid of a person who has HBV. 

HBV can be spread from person to person in the following ways:

  • Unprotected sexual contact with someone who has HBV

  • By sharing needles or other injection drug equipment (works) with someone who has HBV

  • By sharing razors, toothbrushes, or similar personal items with someone who has HBV

  • From contact with the blood or open sores of a person who has HBV

  • From an accidental prick or cut from an HBV-contaminated needle or other sharp object

  • From a mother who has HBV to her child during childbirth

What is the connection between HIV and HBV?

  • Both HIV and HBV spread from person to person in semen, blood, or other body fluids. For this reason, the main risk factors for HIV and HBV are the same: having sex without a condom and injection drug use.

  • Chronic HBV advances faster to cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease, and liver cancer in people with HIV/HBV coinfection than in people with only HBV infection. But chronic HBV doesn’t appear to cause HIV to advance faster in people with HIV/HBV coinfection.

 

Can HBV infection be prevented?

Yes. The best way to prevent HBV infection is to get the hepatitis B vaccine. 

WHO recommends that people with HIV and people who are at risk for HIV get the HBV vaccine (or the combined hepatitis A virus/HBV vaccine). Sexual partners of people with HBV should get the HBV vaccine, too.

People, including people with HIV, can also take the following steps to reduce their risk of HBV infection:

  • Use condoms during sex to reduce the risk of HBV infection and infection with other sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea and syphilis.

  • Don’t share needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment.

  • Don't share toothbrushes, razors, or other personal items that may come in contact with another person's blood.

 

Should people with HIV get tested for HBV?

WHO recommends that all people with HIV get tested for HBV. Testing can detect HBV infection even when a person has no symptoms of the infection.

There are several HBV blood tests. Results of different tests have different meanings. For example, a positive hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) test result shows that a person has acute or chronic HBV and can spread the virus to others.

 

What are the symptoms of HBV infection?

Some people with acute HBV don't have symptoms. But some people can have signs of HBV soon after becoming infected. Symptoms of acute HBV can include the following:

  • Loss of appetite

  • Tiredness

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Fever

  • Abdominal pain

  • Dark urine

  • Clay-colored bowel movements

  • Joint pain

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes)

Most people with chronic HBV don’t have any symptoms and may not have symptoms for many years. Abnormal results on liver function tests may be the first sign of chronic HBV infection.

 

What is the treatment for HBV?

In general, HBV is treated with antiviral medicines. The medicines work to help limit damage to the liver.

People with HIV/HBV coinfection should be treated for both infections. Some HIV medicines are effective at treating both HIV and HBV.

The choice of medicines to treat HIV/HBV coinfection depends on the person. For example, some people may take HIV medicines that are also effective at treating HBV. Other people may take HIV medicines and an HBV antiviral medicine. 

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