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What is the Connection Between Hepatitis B and HIV?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2016
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There are multiple connections between hepatitis B and HIV. Both are viruses transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids. More specifically, these viral infections are primarily spread via sexual activity, sharing hypodermic needles or are passed from mother to child during childbirth. Individuals with immune deficiencies are also more susceptible to contracting hepatitis B, and it is not unusual for people to be infected with hepatitis B and HIV at the same time.

Hepatitis B and HIV both affect men, women and children. Research indicates, however, that certain groups are more likely to contract hepatitis B and HIV than others. Specifically, intravenous drug users, homosexual men and individuals with other STD infections are considered high risk populations for contracting hepatitis B and HIV.

The effects of hepatitis B and HIV also tend to overlap. Initially, a person infected with either virus is not likely to realize any symptoms at all. After a month or two, people infected with HIV will begin to experience symptoms such as a fever and fatigue, which are also symptoms of hepatitis B. It is only after each infection progresses that the symptoms become more distinctly different.

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Hepatitis B and HIV are extremely contagious viruses for which there is no cure. While there is a vaccination that can prevent people from contracting hepatitis B, once a person becomes infected, there is little doctors can do to treat the illness. In time, however, most people recover completely from a hepatitis infection unless they are affected with a chronic form of the illness. Even in chronic infections, however, some people live for decades without exhibiting symptoms or show very mild symptoms.

Perhaps one of the greatest connections between hepatitis B and HIV is that each shares a high co-infection rate with the other. In part, this may be because each infection is prone to the same high risk groups. This may also be because of the similarities in transmission between the two infections. In the United States, as well as other parts of the world, high hepatitis and HIV co-infection rates exist among intravenous drug users. While an average person may be able to battle an acute case of hepatitis B with rest, diet and increased fluid intake, persons with an HIV infection who also have a hepatitis infection are often hospitalized, as infections affect HIV patients more severely and are more likely to be life-threatening.

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