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Hepatitis C and Sex

It is a very common misconception that hepatitis C is often a sexually transmitted disease. The truth is that the hepatitis C virus (HCV) is rarely spread through sex. In fact, it wasn’t until recently that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its website to state that hep C can be spread sexually and the reason they did so was to reflect that HCV has been detected with greater-than-average frequency among people who have specific risk factors.

Understanding What Is Myth vs. What Is Fact

Hepatitis C is spread through contact with an infected person’s blood. Sex isn’t usually bloody, although blood may be present because of genital sores, rough sex, or cuts. So since blood and therefore hepatitis C can be present during sex, transmission is possible but rare.

The misconception that hepatitis C is an STD is very common. Even many health care providers are misinformed about this mode of transmission. This misconception adds to the stigma surrounding the disease. Of course, anything contagious makes people nervous, but to associate a disease with intimacy adds a whole other layer of shame and suspicion about a person’s behaviors and morals.

Moving Beyond the Stigma

My husband, James, and I have been married 27 years with 6 children and he never contracted the virus. I am lucky as James has never loved me any less, nor been afraid of my hep C status, but I know of people who packed their bags and left relationships over the disease or refused to allow their partner to kiss their kids, or get their hair cut without telling the Barber.

Hopefully, as the new anti-viral treatments with high cure rates are introduced, more people will understand that hepatitis C shouldn’t be a deal breaker in a relationship.

Understanding Risk Factors

The information that follows is from the CDC: Although not common, hepatitis C can be transmitted through sexual activity. Some risk factors appear to increase a person’s risk for hepatitis C, including:

  • Having a sexually transmitted disease or HIV
  • Sex with multiple partners
  • Rough sex

Research studies have reported an association between acquiring hepatitis C infection and exposure to a sex contact with hepatitis C infection or exposure to multiple sex partners. Surveillance data also indicate that 15%–20% of persons reported with acute hepatitis C infection have a history of sexual exposure in the absence of other risk factors. New research shows that gay men who are HIV-positive and have multiple sex partners may increase their risk for hepatitis C. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C. The best way to prevent hepatitis C is by avoiding behaviors that can spread the disease, especially sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs. Hepatitis C testing is recommended for anyone at risk for getting hepatitis C but is not based on sexual activity.1

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Sexual Transmission and Viral Hepatitis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Division of Viral Hepatitis and National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention. Available at: