With all the medical advances we have today, you’d think it would be easy to find out whether hep C can be transmitted sexually.
Yet, the answer to this seemingly straightforward question is less than clear-cut.
Hep C is a condition that can lead to serious liver damage. It’s usually transmitted through contact with blood from a person who’s contracted the hep C virus (HCV).
Can that happen through sex? Sure — depending on what you’re doing in the bedroom, there could be a little blood involved (no judgment!). But sex isn’t a common way that the virus is transmitted. The main way hep C is transmitted is through shared needles and substance-injection tools.
With that being said, there are still some pretty important things to be aware of when it comes to hep C and your sex life. Let’s dive in to some FAQs about this misunderstood condition.
Even this isn’t an easy answer! If you happen to contract hep C through sex, then yes, technically it’d be considered an STD/STI.
But transmitting hep C through sex is “uncommon,” per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) doesn’t include hep C on its list of common STIs, but the World Health Organization (WHO) says that it can be transmitted through sex, and that men who have sex with other men experience it more commonly.
So, is it an STD/STI? Technically yes, but your likelihood of contracting hep C from getting down is fairly low. Phew!
Nope! Finally, an easy question to answer. You can’t contract hep C from kissing a person who’s contracted the virus. You’re also in the clear if you want to share food or take a sip of their iced coffee.
But you probably shouldn’t share a toothbrush with a person who’s contracted hep C. You won’t contract hep C from any spit on that shared toothbrush. But if someone living with hep C is experiencing bleeding gums, and that blood gets on the toothbrush you use for your mouth, you may contract the virus too.
Also, just don’t share toothbrushes. No couple needs to be that close.
The odds are pretty low. But your risk level depends on your situation.
One 2012 study on 500 straight, monogamous couples found that the rate of hep C transmission through sex was just 0.07 percent per year.
The CDC and WHO both point out that men who have sex with other men may have a higher risk of contracting hep C, but neither have exact data on the odds.
Basically, if you have anal or rough sex, sex with people who use or misuse intravenous (IV) substances, or if you have multiple partners, your chances of contracting hep C may go up. The chances are still low, but with all the other STIs out there, it’s a good idea to have sex with a barrier method.
Maybe? Again, the answer isn’t super clear. One small 2008 study on 13 people with positive blood test results for HCV found no evidence of the virus in their semen. However, a more recent small study on 33 men with HIV and hep C found that their semen contained enough HCV to potentially transmit the infection to their sexual partners.
And another small study emphasized that HCV may be found in rectal fluid and mucosa at high levels. This would make it easier to transmit the virus to a partner through anal sex.
Is there evidence of hep C being transmitted through sperm or rectal fluid IRL? Nope. But given that it may be possible, it’s a good idea to use a barrier method during sex.
Hep C can be sexually transmitted, but it’s rare. Your risk is higher if you’re a guy who has sex with other guys or if you’re a person of any gender who has multiple partners. Even in straight, monogamous relationships, there’s a slight chance of transmission, but it’s extremely unlikely.
There are many STIs in the world. So, it’s a good idea to use a barrier method during sex though to ward off STIs even if your risk of contracting hep C is low.