Transmission of hepatitis C
What are the risk factors?Scientific research has identified a number of risk factors for the transmission of hepatitis C.
Dutch researchers did a study among HIV-positive men with and without hepatitis C, and from the results they were able to identify a number of significant risk factors connected to hepatitis C. According to the study, there’s a higher risk if:
- you are fucked without a condom
- you fist or are fisted without gloves
- you share toys (“sharing” includes using other people's toys)
- you have syphilis, herpes or LGV
- you share straws or other snorting equipment.
- you inject (“slam”) drugs
Note: these risk factors were identified with the help of a long list of questions. However, the questions did not cover every single situation. For example, there were no questions about:
- sharing lube, or towels/sling/mattress with lube residue
- sharing anal douches
Scientifically speaking, we can’t say if these situations increase the risk of hepatitis C transmission, because the scientists didn’t ask about them.
Where does the virus live?Hepatitis C can live in blood, sperm, rectal fluid and poo particles. Hepatitis C can spread through the residue of lube from anal sex.
Contact with blood
Hepatitis C is transmitted through contact with blood, among other ways. This can happen, for instance, if a bruise or cut on your hand bleeds during sex. Or if you are a bottom: when you bleed (invisibly) during long and hard fucking, fisting or ass play with dildos/toys. You usually won’t notice if small blood vessels in your ass bleed.
Blood particles in lube
If someone bleeds, you will probably not see that in the used lubricant. But the lube could contain tiny blood particles. This lube may then end up:
- on your cock, pubic hair or balls (when fucking)
- on your hands or forearms (when fisting)
- on dildos/toys (during ass play)
- on the towel, play sheet or sling (on which the bottom is lying).
Particles of dried blood
Hepatitis C differs from HIV because it can survive outside the body for quite a long time. When the virus is present in particles of dried blood, it seems able to survive for up to six weeks at room temperature on materials such as steel, plastic and rubber. Fuck benches and play sheets are made from such materials. A “play sheet” is a plastic/rubber sheet for covering beds, sofas or mattresses, or for laying across the floor during sex to avoid having to worry about lube stains. When we talk about the sling, we don’t just mean the sling mat. The virus may be present on the frame and chains as well, if these parts have been touched with lubed fingers during sex.
Studies show that hepatitis C can sometimes be present in sperm. The chance of this is greater in cases of recent (that is, acute) infection. It is not known if the virus can live in pre-ejaculate. Oral sex without coming is low-risk. Felching one partner (= licking sperm from someone’s ass) and then rimming another partner (licking his ass) is risky for the one being rimmed, if the person doing the rimming has sperm on his tongue or lips, or in or around his mouth.
Some men with hepatitis C have the virus in their rectal fluid (intestinal mucus) and in their poo particles. This could mean that bleeding may not be necessary for transmission of hepatitis C and, potentially, that the virus could be transmitted to the person who is rimming. However, more research needs to be done to know this for sure. Until we know more, we do not advise against rimming.
Not in spit or urine
Hepatitis C is not present in spit or urine. That means it is safe to drink from each other's glasses and to tongue with your partners. Water sports (golden shower) is safe too. Rimming (with lots of spit) is not risky for the bottom, unless the one doing the rimming has bleeding gums and the blood ends up in his spit.
The top as the 'vector' (carrier) of the virusIf you’re a bottom, you can get hepatitis C from another bottom during a sex party without having sex with him.
A 'shared' top can transfer the virus to you from someone else via lube residue on his fingers, hands, forearms or cock. If you're a top, and you fuck or fist multiple men, then this is something to remember. You can become a "vector" (carrier) of the virus without being aware of it. So:
- wash your crotch properly with mild soap or wash gel and rinse with lots of water before fucking the next partner
- wash and disinfect your hands and forearms before fisting the next partner.
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Wounds, sores or other damage to the mucous membrane make it easier for hepatitis C to enter the body. Injuries can happen easily during anal sex. STIs can also cause minor damage or sores.
Damage, wounds and sores from anal sex
It’s easier for hepatitis C to enter the body when the mucous membrane in your ass is damaged, which can occur during:
- anal douching
- long (and hard) fucking
- ass play with dildos and other toys
- booty bumping (= taking chems through the ass).
Wounds and sores
Hepatitis C also enters the body more easily through wounds and sores caused by:
- other STIs
- medical treatment to the anus. Perhaps you’ve had a wart or haemorrhoid removed, or had a biopsy taken because you had to be tested for AIN (= precursors to anal cancer).
Sharing drug-taking equipmentThe virus can survive a long time on the tools you use to snort, smoke, booty bump or slam chems.
Snorting, smoking and booty bumping
There is a risk of hepatitis C when you:
- share straws and other snorting tools. Snorting drugs/chems can cause minor bleeds in the nose. You may not even notice these bleeds. When this happens, blood particles containing hepatitis C can stick to the straw or whatever you’re using to snort.
- share meth pipes for smoking tina. Sharing meth pipes can be risky. If you drink too little, you run a great risk of getting dry lips. The heat of the pipe could create small cracks in your lips. If the virus is on the mouthpiece, these cracks make you more vulnerable to getting hepatitis C
- share syringes for booty bumping (= taking chems through the ass)
If you slam (= inject drugs), you run the risk of transmitting viruses like hepatitis C when you share:
- needles and syringes
- water for dissolving chems (whether the water is sterilized or boiled for 5 minutes)
- stericups (= sterile cups for dissolving chems)
- cotton balls for stopping bleeds
- alcohol wipes
- the cups/containers you put your syringes in.
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