Spreading the virus through sexual contact is rare
If you have hepatitis C, passing the infection to your intimate partner is probably a concern. While it is possible to spread the disease through sexual contact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s not likely. There are steps you can take to reduce the risk.
Hep C is primarily spread through contact with the blood of someone who’s infected. It’s unclear whether the virus can live in saliva, semen or vaginal secretions, but these factors may increase the risk of spreading the virus during sex:
Having multiple sex partners
Engaging in rough sex, which may lead to bleeding
Having a sexually transmitted disease
Being infected with HIV
In people who have these, hepatitis C can occasionally spread through vaginal intercourse. It might also spread through anal sex, which can damage the lining of the rectum, making it easier for the virus to gain access to the bloodstream.
If you have hepatitis C and are in a long-term, monogamous relationship, the risk of passing the virus to your partner during sex is very low. Researchers in one study looked at 500 longtime couples in which a partner had hepatitis C. They found the disease spread in about 1 out of every 190,000 sexual encounters.
If you’re in a long-term monogamous relationship where one of you is infected with hep C, the uninfected partner should be tested for the virus at least once. If you’re still concerned, use a latex condom for added protection.
If you’re not in a long-term, monogamous relationship, the risk of giving someone hepatitis C through sex is a bit higher. You can reduce the risk of spreading the virus with these steps:
Tell potential partners you have hepatitis C.
Avoid engaging in rough sex.
Get tested for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.
Limit your number of sex partners.
Skip sex when either partner has an open sore or cut in the genital area or is menstruating.
Use a latex condom every time you have sex.