High Rate of Hepatitis C Infection in Gay Men

Recent outbreaks of the Hepatitis C virus (HCV) among men who have sex with men have been reported in Europe and the United States. Doctors believe that a significant number of cases were transmitted through sexual contact. “This finding is alarming,” says Pitt Men’s Study Physician Assistant Kristen D’Acunto. “HCV is usually associated with injection drug use because it’s primarily spread through exposure to infected blood.”

Information posted on the Website Stopaids.org suggests the high rate of infection among gay men may be the result of rough anal play. “‘Rough anal play’ relates to the specific sexual practices of gay men involved in the initial research, who were also HIV-positive,” explained Dr. Ross Cranston, the Pitt Men’s Study Medical Director. “This finding makes sense since these practices are more likely to result in mucosal tears resulting in bleeding, and so increase the risk for HCV transmission.”

Symptoms of acute HCV include jaundice, fatigue, abdominal pain, dark urine, loss of appetite and nausea. “It is also possible to have no symptoms at all,” D’Acunto is quick to point out. “Currently there is no vaccine and treatment is both difficult to undertake and has a limited success rate in HIV-positive individuals. So it’s important to use a condom during anal sex. It’s also important to get tested for HCV so that you can learn how to avoid spreading it to others.”  

“HCV infection is determined by a simple blood test,” adds Dr. Ross Cranston. “If it comes back positive, that means you have been infected with the virus. It’s important to note that some people recover from HCV without treatment. However, most people are chronically infected, which means the virus is in your system permanently. These are the folks that can go on to experience disease progression with abnormal liver function, the development of cirrhosis, and ultimately liver cancer.” 

Form more information about HCV, you can go any of these helpful links:




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