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Hey. My doctor told me that I am immune to hepatitis. My boyfriend just told me he has hepatitis C. I can't get hepatitis C from him right?

We are glad to answer your query. If your doctor stated that you are immune to Hepatitis, it will be good to ask which type are they referring to, because there are different types of Hepatitis. Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver and could be caused by some drugs, diseases, alcohol use, toxins and bacterial or viral infections. The most common cause would be viruses namely Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.  Let us explore a bit about each of these three types:

Hepatitis A virus is usually transmitted when we eat or drink something that has the virus in it. It is the least risky of the three types, it mostly clears on its own. Once a person has gotten rid of the virus, they become immune to Hep A and can never get reinfected with it. There is a Hep A vaccine available that can protect us from future infections.

Hepatitis B virus most commonly enters the body through unprotected sex with an infected person, infected mother to child during birth or after and by sharing needles. Some people are able to clear Hep B from their bodies within about six months of becoming infected. If they clear it, they are no longer infected, nor can they get reinfected or pass it to others. Hepatitis B is preventable by vaccination.

Hepatitis C is a complex virus, so it is hard for our immune system to keep pace with the virus. There is no vaccine to prevent Hep C. People infected with Hep C may not have any symptoms, about 25% of people infected may spontaneously clear the virus on their own during the initial phase (acute phase). The rest 75% go on to develop a chronic phase of Hep C. For those who develop chronic Hep C infection there is treatment available. Here’s an earlier post on Hep C you may find useful.

If you had the Hep C infection earlier and cleared it, it does not mean that you are immune from getting it again.  You can be reinfected with Hep C whether you cleared the virus on your own or by successful treatment. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C transmission. If your friend is living with Hep C you could get reinfected. To reduce your risk of getting hepatitis C, the following measures can help in a safe and supportive relationship:

  • avoid sharing personal items like razors, toothbrush or nail clippers
  • if you are using drugs avoid sharing drug use equipment like injections, cookers, tourniquets, or snorting equipment
  • if you are having sex, use condoms correctly and consistently and avoid sharing sex toys

Receiving a diagnosis of Hep C can be shocking and confusing. It can have an impact on ones lifestyle and coping. While there is no vaccine to prevent Hep C, there are newer treatment options that has better outcomes, fewer side effects and shorter treatment regimes. Supporting your boyfriend through this phase would be helpful in him successfully clearing the virus. You can reach out to your health care provider for more information and support.

Hope this was helpful.