(Last updated 8/31/2016; last reviewed 8/31/2016)
Hepatitis B is a liver disease caused by the hepatitis B virus (HBV). The abbreviation HBV can stand for either the virus or the disease it causes.
HBV can be a short-term (acute) or a long-term (chronic) illness:
HBV is a contagious disease that can spread from person to person.
HBV is spread through contact with the blood, semen, or other body fluid of a person infected with HBV. Among adults in the United States, HBV is spread mainly through sexual contact.
HBV can also spread from person to person in the following ways:
Both HIV and HBV spread in semen, blood, or other body fluids. Therefore, the main risk factors for HIV and HBV are the same: unprotected sex (sex without a condom) and injection drug use.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 10% of people with HIV in the United States are also infected with HBV. Infection with both HIV and HBV is called HIV/HBV coinfection.
Chronic HBV advances faster to cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease, and liver cancer in people with HIV/HBV coinfection than in people with only HBV infection. But chronic HBV doesn’t appear to cause HIV to advance faster in people with HIV/HBV coinfection.
Yes. The best way to prevent HBV infection is to get the hepatitis B vaccine.
CDC recommends that people with HIV and people who are at risk for HIV get the HBV vaccine (or the combined hepatitis A virus [HAV]/HBV vaccine). The housemates and sexual partners of people with HBV should get the HBV vaccine too.
People, including people with HIV, can also take the following steps to reduce their risk of HBV infection:
Everyone infected with HIV should get tested for HBV. Testing can detect HBV infection even when a person has no symptoms of the disease.
There are several HBV blood tests. Results of different tests have different meanings. For example, a positive hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) test result shows that a person has acute or chronic HBV and can spread the virus to others.
To learn more about HBV tests, visit the CDC webpage Hepatitis B FAQs for the Public (look under the heading “Tests”).
Most people with acute HBV don’t have symptoms. But some people can have signs of HBV soon after becoming infected. Mild to severe symptoms of acute HBV can include the following:
Most people with chronic HBV don’t have any symptoms for many years. Abnormal results on liver function tests may be the first sign of chronic HBV infection.
In general, HBV is treated with antiviral medicines. The medicines work to slow down or stop HBV from damaging the liver.
People with HIV/HBV coinfection should be treated for both infections. Some HIV medicines are effective at treating both HIV and HBV.
The choice of medicines to treat HIV/HBV coinfection depends on the person. For example, some people may take only HIV medicines, including some that are also effective against HBV. Other people may take HIV medicines and an HBV antiviral medicine. If you have HIV/HBV coinfection, talk to your health care provider about the best medicines for you.
From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
From the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS):
From the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK):