May is National Hepatitis Awareness Month
May marks the annual National Hepatitis Awareness Month, and organizers of the monthlong event point out that the majority of sexually active adults--including more than half of all gay and bisexual men--have not been vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, which can be transmitted through unprotected sex. Hepatitis A and B are the only sexually transmitted diseases for which a preventative vaccine exists. Hepatitis C is also a growing problem for people coinfected with HIV and is emerging as a leading cause of death in HIV-HCV patients.
An estimated 78,000 Americans become infected with hepatitis B each year, while 25,000 contract hepatitis C annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Men who have sex with men currently account for 18% of hepatitis B cases in the United States, up from about 7% in 1999. The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association estimates that more than half of America's gay and bisexual men are at risk for contracting hepatitis B, which can be transmitted by contact with semen. For more information on hepatitis A, B, and C or National Hepatitis Awareness Month visit Hepatitis Foundation International at www.hepfi.org.