In most situations, it is your choice whether or not you tell someone that you have hepatitis B or hepatitis C. This page contains information to help you talk to the people you decide to tell, including friends and family, employers and education institutions, and health care workers.

You can also read the information on who you have to tell.

Telling friends and family

Partners, families and friends can play an important role in supporting you if you have hepatitis B or hepatitis C. You may want to tell them that you have hepatitis, but don’t know how to, or you may be concerned about how they will respond.

Your friends and family might be very supportive when you tell them. However they may also not know much about hepatitis and could be scared or upset when you tell them. They may have heard myths or misconceptions about the virus. This is why it is important to come prepared when you tell someone you have hepatitis B or C. Some ways that you can do this are:

  • Make sure you know the basics about hepatitis B so you can answer some of the more common questions.

  • Call the Hepatitis Infoline (1800 437 222) first. Hepatitis organisations can give you advice and answer some questions you may have.

  • Practise what you are going to say. It is normal to feel nervous about telling someone, and this can make it hard to say what you want.

  • Find a place and time where you can talk privately and give yourself plenty of time.

  • Ask them to keep your diagnosis confidential.

  • Bring materials with you to help you answer any questions they have. You may want to bring the number for the Hepatitis Infoline (1800 437 222) so they can talk to someone else and find out more.

You can also read this article on Hepatitis B and relationships.

Telling your employer or education institution

You do not have to tell your employer or the place where you study that you have hepatitis B or hepatitis C. This includes in pre-employment health checks. The exceptions to this are if you are a member of the Australian Defence Force or you are a health care worker carrying out exposure prone procedures.

There may be some cases where you want to tell your employer or place of study that you have hepatitis B or C, particularly if it is affecting your ability to work. Your employer or place where you study is not allowed to tell anyone that you have hepatitis B or C without your permission.

If you need your employer or place of study to make reasonable adjustments so that you can complete your normal duties, for example by making changes to your work hours, you can ask them to do this.1 You will most likely need to provide a medical certificate, but you do not have to tell your employer what the medical condition is. You can ask your doctor to be non-specific when they write your medical certificate.

You can read more about reasonable adjustments in this guide to the Disability Discrimination Act.

For some jobs (for example, if you work in health care), you may need to get a hepatitis B vaccination—which, if you have hepatitis B is not necessary. What you can do, without having to technically disclose that you have hepatitis B, is to ask your doctor for a letter that states you are not at risk or susceptible to contracting hepatitis B in the course of your work. You must seek medical or specialist advice to ensure that you are not potentially infectious in the context or type of work you perform in health care.

Telling health care workers

You do not have to tell health care workers that you have hepatitis B or C. All health care workers, including dentists, have strict protocols that they must follow to avoid getting a blood borne virus. These do not change if they are treating someone with hepatitis B or C.

Sometimes it is useful and important for your health to tell a health care worker that you have hepatitis B or C. For example, they can help monitor your liver, access the right treatment, or refer you for counselling if it is affecting your mental health. If you need help to find a doctor who has experience with hepatitis B or C, you can call the Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 437 222.

In most cases a health care worker cannot tell anyone else that you have hepatitis B or C without your permission.2 You can read more about this here:

Confidentiality


References

  1. Australian Human Rights Commission. (2012, December 14). A brief guide to the Disability Discrimination Act. Retrieved from Australian Human Rights Commission: humanrights.gov.au/our-work/disability-rights/brief-guide-disability-discrimination-act

  2. Australian Human Rights Commission. (2010). 2010 Workers with Mental Illness: a Practical Guide for Managers - Appendix A: Knowing the Law. Retrieved from Australian Human Rights Commission: www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/appendix-knowing-law   

Page updated 9 April 2020