Men who have sex with men (MSM)
If you are a man who is having sex with men, there are ways you can protect your sexual health, including:
always using a condom for oral and anal sex;
getting tested regularly – at least once a year, or once every three months if you change sexual partners;
getting hepatitis A and B vaccinations;
being aware of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for HIV;
Hepatitis A risk for MSM
Hepatitis A is a liver infection that is spread by a virus in faeces.
How hepatitis A is spread
It is spread mainly through contaminated food or poor hand-washing, but can also be passed on easily through sex. During sex, it is mainly passed on:
- when licking skin, condoms or sex toys that have small amounts of faeces on them;
- during oral-anal sex (‘rimming’);
- when giving oral sex after anal sex.
Gay and bisexual men with multiple partners are particularly at risk.
Outbreaks of hepatitis A have been reported in Europe, mostly affecting MSM.
Symptoms of hepatitis A
Symptoms of hepatitis A can appear up to eight weeks after exposure to the risk and include:
- flu like symptoms
- itchy skin
- stomach pain
- jaundice (your skin and the whites of your eyes are yellow).
Hepatitis A can be unpleasant, but it's not usually serious and most people make a full recovery within a couple of months. However, it can occasionally last for many months and, in rare cases, it can be life-threatening if it causes liver failure.
Protecting yourself against hepatitis A
Men can avoid getting hepatitis A by:
- washing your hands after sex (ideally your buttocks, groin and penis too);
- changing condoms between anal and oral sex;
- using latex gloves for fisting;
- not sharing sex toys;
If you think you might have hepatitis A, or have any questions, visit a GUM clinic or your GP.