What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis means inflammation of the liver. This condition is often caused by a virus.
In the United States, the most common causes of viral hepatitis are hepatitis A virus (HAV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), and hepatitis C virus (HCV). HBV and HCV are common among people who are at risk for or living with HIV; that’s because these viruses are transmitted in some of the same ways HIV is transmitted—through injection drug use and condomless sex. When someone is infected with both HIV and viral hepatitis, we say that they are “coinfected.”
Viral hepatitis progresses faster and causes more liver-related health problems among people with HIV than among those who do not have HIV. Although drug therapy has extended the life expectancy of people with HIV, liver disease—much of which is related to HCV and HBV—has become a leading cause of non-AIDS-related death among people living with HIV.
Hepatitis A and HIV
- Hepatitis A is preventable with a vaccine, and the vaccine is recommended for people with HIV if some other risk factor is present (e.g., on the basis of medical, occupational, lifestyle, or other indications).
- There is no antiviral treatment for HAV-infection, but most HAV-infected people recover completely.
Hepatitis A is a contagious, but usually short-term liver disease that results from infection with HAV. HAV infection usually makes adults sick with symptoms including fever, fatigue, nausea, and jaundice and is more severe in people who have HBV and/or HCV.
HAV is usually spread from person to person when the virus is ingested through contact with food, drinks, or objects (including injection drug equipment) that have been contaminated by the feces of an HAV-infected person.
Protecting Yourself from HAV
There is a vaccine that can protect you from HAV. The HHS Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents recommend HAV vaccination for people living with HIV who have chronic liver disease; men who have sex with men (MSM); people who inject drugs, and those who are coinfected with HBV and/or HCV. CDC also recommends HAV vaccination for people at high risk for HIV infection, including MSM and users of injection or noninjection illicit drugs. (See the recommended adult immunization schedule.)
There is no treatment for HAV infection, but almost all people who get HAV recover completely and do not have any lasting liver damage, although they may feel sick for a period of weeks or months.
For more information, see CDC’s Hepatitis A Information for the Public.
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Last revised: 06/30/2015