HIV in Canada: A primer for service providers

 

Hepatitis B

Key Points

  • A vaccine is available for hepatitis B
  • The rate of hepatitis B has decreased by 16% from 2011 to 2016.

Hepatitis B is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. The early stage of infection lasts about six months and is called acute infection. The majority of adults are able to clear the virus from their body during acute infection and develop lifelong immunity. People who do not clear the virus become hepatitis B chronic carriers and are at risk of developing serious liver complications such as cirrhosis and cancer. About one-quarter of chronic carriers will develop chronic liver inflammation, which increases their risk of liver disease or cancer of the liver. There is no cure for hepatitis B, but treatment helps reduce the risk of developing liver disease.

A vaccine is available to protect against hepatitis B infection. All provinces and territories have implemented school-based hepatitis B vaccination programs. Additionally, the hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all individuals who are at increased risk of hepatitis B infection, including people who use injection drugs and people who engage in high-risk sexual behaviours. This vaccine is safe for people with HIV.

Many people with hepatitis B experience few or no symptoms. This makes it more difficult to ensure timely diagnosis. People with HIV can be co-infected with hepatitis B because of shared transmission routes. This makes it important for people who have been diagnosed with HIV be tested for hepatitis B and provided with appropriate vaccination if hepatitis B negative.

Between 2011 and 2016, the rate of new hepatitis B diagnoses in Canada decreased by 16%. There were 4,961 new hepatitis B diagnoses in 2016 resulting in a rate of 14 for every 100,000 people in Canada in 2016. The majority of hepatitis B diagnoses (57%) were in men in 2016. About two-thirds of hepatitis B diagnoses (67%) were among Canadians aged 30 to 59 in 2016.

Resources

Hepatitis B – CATIE fact sheet

Hepatitis B Infection in Canada – Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)

Hepatitis B: Get the facts – PHAC fact sheet

Sources

  1. Public Health Agency of Canada. Notifiable diseases online. Available from: http://diseases.canada.ca/notifiable/