There are two main vaccinations that can support your sexual health as you grow up. These will help protect you from HPV (genital warts) and hepatitis.
Hepatitis is a medical condition that means that the liver is inflamed. Many things can cause this to happen, but the most common cause is a liver-attacking virus. There are a few strains of it and these are termed A, B, C and D. The virus can cause serious and long-term liver damage.
How can you prevent it? Hepatitis lives in blood, semen, vaginal fluids, saliva and bodily fluids. The most easily spread strain is B and it is the one you have to be most careful about.
It can be spread by:
- Having any sexual contact with an infected person without using a male or female condom.
- Sharing needles, razor blades, toothbrushes, food, nail clippers, etc.
- From an infected mother to an infant.
- Kissing – if one of you has an open sore in the mouth or lips.
What’s the link to HIV? Hepatitis B and C are often common in people with HIV and will put further strain on the immune system.
Can it be cured? Vaccines that can guard against hepatitis A and B are available. All teens should be vaccinated against hepatitis B. For adults, the hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for those who are at high risk.
Hepatitis B and C can be treated. The drugs to treat hepatitis are very expensive, that’s why prevention is better.
Much like HIV, you won’t know if a person is infected unless they tell you. But they may not know, so play it safe and always assume they are. Ask at your clinic for a test if you are concerned. Knowing that you have viral hepatitis helps you take actions to treat it, and avoid passing the virus to others.