HOW CAN YOU PREVENT HEPATITIS C TRANSMISSION?
Hep C can only be passed on when blood containing hep C enters the bloodstream of another person. Avoiding blood-to-blood contact is the best way to prevent the transmission of hep C.
WHY SHOULD YOU USE YOUR OWN EQUIPMENT WHEN YOU’RE INJECTING DRUGS OR STEROIDS?
If you inject drugs (ice, heroin etc.) or if you inject steroids (like testosterone) then you can help prevent hepatitis C transmission by always using your own sterile needles and syringes and not sharing anything used in the injecting process such as alcohol swabs, spoons, tourniquets or vials (the bottles or bladders that some steroids come in).
People often inject together and help each other to inject. If you’re helping someone it’s important to remember that your hands can have blood on them that you can’t see. Wear gloves or work out ways to help that mean you don’t touch anything the other person is using to inject.
CAN YOU GET HEP C FROM TATTOOS OR BODY PIERCINGS?
Always get tattoos and body piercings done by a professional who uses infection control procedures. This means that they open all the equipment they use in front of you so you know that it is sterile. Any equipment that is reused (like a tattoo gun) must be sterilised between clients, using a machine called an autoclave. You can ask to see the autoclave at the parlour or shop you go to.
Ink used to tattoo you and felt-tipped pens used to draw on tattoo designs can also contain blood that could have hepatitis C in it. Re-dipping the tattoo needle into the ink throughout the tattoo means that it is very likely that there is blood in the ink. This is fine if it’s only your blood, but not if that ink has been used for someone else getting a tattoo before you.
Similarly, pens are often used during a tattoo to redraw part of the design and can get blood on the felt-tip as it is common to bleed a bit while being tattooed.
If you’re getting tattooed or pierced by someone who is not a professional then it’s a good idea to ask them a lot of questions about the equipment they are using. If the equipment is not fresh (like the gun) and has not been cleaned using an autoclave then it is not sterile and could have blood on it, even though you can’t see it.
Washing a tattoo gun in hot water, alcohol, bleach or a dishwasher will not sterilise it and can mean that you are at high risk of a blood-borne virus like hepatitis C as well as bacterial infections.
CAN HEPATITIS C BE TRANSMITTED THROUGH SEX?
Hepatitis C is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection (STI) because it doesn’t live in sexual fluids like semen or vaginal fluids.
Sex is an extremely low risk for hepatitis C transmission. However, the hep C virus can be found in menstrual fluid. During sex, blood to blood contact is possible, if the partner has an open cut, abrasion or an STI. Use condoms for sex and cover and avoid sharing sex toys. Women with hep C may decide not to engage in vaginal sex during their period to minimise the risk
Blood to blood contact during sex is more likely to happen if you are having rough sex, having sex for a long time, using drugs during sex (especially crystal methamphetamine), if you are living with HIV or have an STI such as herpes, genital warts or syphilis.
DO YOU HAVE TO TELL YOUR PARTNER IF YOU HAVE HEPATITIS C?
If you are living with hepatitis C you are not legally required to tell a sexual partner that you have hepatitis C before having sex. For the five situations when Australian law requires you to tell someone you have hep C – see this factsheet.
This page was last updated 14 June 2017.