With Valentine’s Day approaching, I’ve been thinking about the man I love and how I’m happy that in our 32-year relationship, he stayed free of HCV. I didn’t know I had it until last spring, and once I did he got tested. So did my daughters. Everyone was free and clear—except me.
Now I’m probably free and clear. I’ll get my final viral count in March, and the virus has been non-detectable since August. But even though my family didn’t contract hepatitis C, I’m wondering about the decade before I met my husband. Did I infect anyone? I wasn’t celibate.
In one of the earliest studies of transmission between heterosexual partners, researchers at the Red Cross Blood Bank in Amsterdam, Netherlands, found absolutely no transmission from persons with HCV to their sexual partners. They tested 50 heterosexual couples who had a median relationship duration of 13 years.*
In another study, published in 2004 in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, not one of 776 persons with HCV who remained monogamous for 10 years, transmitted the virus to their heterosexual partner. The couples did not use condoms, which would reduce transmission. They didn’t engage in anal sex or sex during the woman’s period, which might increase transmission. Three of the partners contracted HCV, but the gene sequence of their virus was different from their partner’s. That means they must have contracted their virus from some other source.
Still, some sex is risky, and studies show that sex with multiple partners is riskier. On Valentine’s Day that’s a lot to think about. It would be hard to locate a person you hooked up with for a week, some 35 years ago, and according to the studies, it’s extremely unlikely the virus would have spread. But urging your partner to be tested, no matter what, will get rid of that teeny-tiny doubt. If your partner is a Baby Boomer, he or she should be tested in any event. After my husband got his results, he smiled and life went on as usual.
* The studies referred to on this page are listed in the Readings page.