HIV and Hepatitis A

As the number of hepatitis A cases continue to rise across southeast Michigan, people with HIV can lower their risk of contracting the hepatitis virus by getting vaccinated.

Our HIV doctors say vaccination is the best way to prevent infection of hepatitis A. The vaccine is safe and effective, and two shots are recommended six months apart for long-term protection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccination for anyone at-risk of HIV infection including men who have sex with men, users of injection and non-injection illegal drugs, and sex partners of infected people.

Hepatitis A is contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis A virus. It can range in severity from a mild illness lasting a few weeks to a severe illness lasting several months.

Our doctors caution that the disease progresses faster and causes more liver-related problems in people with HIV.

Hepatitis A is transmitted by contact with an infected person or consuming food or water contaminated by stool from an infected person.

Common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark urine
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes.

If symptoms occur, they typically appear from two to six weeks after exposure. Symptoms can last for several weeks and up to six months. A person can spread infection without having symptoms.

Hepatitis A is diagnosed by a blood test. There are no special treatments for hepatitis A. Most people will feel sick for a few months before they begin to feel better. A few people will need to be hospitalized. During this time, doctors usually recommend rest, adequate nutrition, and fluids.

People with HIV who are infected with hepatitis A should check with their health professional before taking any prescription pills, supplements, or over-the-counter medications, which can potentially damage the liver. And alcohol should be avoided.

Find more information about hepatitis A on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Source: Henry Ford Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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