An increase in locally acquired hep A has been recently reported among men who have sex with men (MSM) in NSW.

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In September 2017, Positive Life let you know about an increase of locally acquired hepatitis A (hep A) acquired through person to person transmission. The outbreak which emerged last year was quickly contained, with the last case reported in December.

Recently, an increase in locally acquired hep A  has been reported among men who have sex with men (MSM) in NSW. While most people recover completely from hep A, it can cause a severe infection with inflammation of the liver.
 
There is a safe and effective vaccine that can protect you from hep A and all PLHIV especially those who are sexually active, are recommended to have it. Hep A is easy to pick up and pass on. A serious infection like this one can potentially heavily impact our immune systems, especially if you have a low CD4 count. 

If you, or someone you know, are worried about your risk and you haven’t received the hep A vaccine (HAV) or you didn't complete your vaccinations (two injections), it might be worth discussing your options with your local sexual health clinic (SHC) or your doctor. All sexual health clinics (SHCs) across NSW offer at least one dose of HAV vaccine for free to men who identify as gay and bisexual. Eight of those clinics offer both doses for free. The vaccine may take up to two weeks to provide protection. While you're there, ask what other vaccines might be important for you as well, like hep B and HPV.

What is Hepatitis A?
Hep A is a viral liver infection and is spread through ingesting tiny bits of faecal matter (shit). This can be through sexual or close physical contact with someone who has hep A, especially during anal sex and rimming.

It’s also commonly contracted through sharing food, liquids, and kitchens or cooking equipment when hygiene standards aren’t followed, though this is rare in Australia. Unlike HIV, the virus can live on hands and surfaces for many hours, and survive in food stuff kept at room temperature for even longer.

The infection generally lasts a few days and tends to clear up on its own. No fatalities or serious long-term effects are expected, but those with a low CD4 count, older people, and anyone with a history of liver damage and disease may have a more severe sickness.

Symptoms
- jaundice (yellowing of the eyeballs and skin)
- fatigue
- fever
- joint aches and pains
- severe stomach pain
- nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea
- dark urine and pale yellowish stools.

Many people may not notice their symptoms if they are mild. Anyone with severe symptoms, or a sickness that lasts longer than three to four days should contact their doctor.

Looking after yourself and your partners
Hep A is common and easy to pass on to someone who’s never had it. Gay and straight sexually active men in NSW are recommended to get vaccinated as well. If you have hep A, or you’re worried about passing it on or picking it up, here are some tips:

  • Keeping hydrated is very important
  • Ask your doctor about nutritional supplements if the sickness persists
  • Stay home and avoid using communal spaces where it could be passed on
  • Keep up good hygiene practices
  • Wash your hands after sex and before any food preparation
  • Talk to your partners and mates about hep A

More Information
If you have any questions you can call the NSW Sexual Health Infolink (SHIL) on 1800 451 624, your local sexual health clinic, your doctor or Positive Life Treatments Officers on (02) 9206-2177.

Hepatitis Australia – Hep A
NSW Health Fact Sheet: Hepatitis A
WHO Factsheet - Hepatitis A
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control Alert, July 2017
Which vaccinations should I get as an adult?

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