Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is present in the semen of enough men who have sex with men (MSM) coinfected with HIV to warrant the use of condoms to prevent the sexual transmission of HCV regardless of a partner’s HIV status, according to researchers, aidsmap reports. Publishing their findings in Open Forum Infectious Diseases, investigators studied 33 HIV/HCV-coinfected MSM who gave paired samples of blood and semen.

Sixty-four percent of the men had contracted hep C within six months and the others were infected for longer and considered chronically infected.

The participants gave 59 semen samples that the researchers could test for the presence of hep C.

Thirty-three percent of the men had detectable hep C in their semen. Twenty-seven percent of the semen samples (16) had detectable virus.

The researchers calculated that an average ejaculate would deposit up to 6,630 international units of hep C into the rectum of a receptive partner during anal sex.

“The rectal mucosa changes generated by anal intercourse alone, without more significant trauma, may allow absorption of HCV from semen,” the researchers concluded. “Our data therefore strongly support that condoms should be used during anal intercourse among MSM to prevent HCV acquisition, regardless of serostatus.”

There is a well-documented, expanding epidemic of sexually transmitted hepatitis C among HIV-positive MSM in the Western world. There have also been recent case reports of HIV-negative MSM contracting HCV sexually, but such transmission appears more rare.

To read the aidsmap article, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.