In most situations it is your choice whether you tell someone that you have hepatitis B or hepatitis C. However, there are some situations where you must disclose that you have, or previously had, hepatitis. These are:

Blood donation

You cannot donate blood or plasma if you have hepatitis B or hepatitis C, or if you have previously had hepatitis C. You must tell the blood bank in the pre-blood donation questionnaire if you have ever had hepatitis B or hepatitis C.1

Health care workers who perform exposure prone procedures

An exposure prone procedure (EPP) means you could come into contact with sharp instruments or exposed tissues (such as bone or teeth) inside a person’s body. Most health care workers do not perform EPPs. Health care workers who do perform EPPs must get tested regularly for hepatitis B and hepatitis C (as well as HIV). If you have hepatitis B or C and perform EPPs, you should read the national guidelines available on the Department of Health website.2

Some insurance policies

You may need to tell your insurer that you have hepatitis B or hepatitis C if you are applying for life insurance or a different type of insurance where your health may impact:

  • their decision whether or not to insure you
  • the terms and conditions (such as cost) of your insurance with them.3

This may also include travel insurance, trauma insurance, total and permanent disability insurance, superannuation insurance and income protection insurance. If you do not tell the insurance company, they can void your contract if you need to make a claim.

If you are a not an Australian citizen or permanent resident, there may be restrictions on what you can claim for a pre-existing condition4, such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C. You can read more information on the Australian Government Private Health website.

The Australian Defence Force

If you are a member of the Australian Defence Force (including the Navy, Army and Air Force) and you have hepatitis B or C, you must tell them. You may have to leave the defence forces if you have hepatitis B or C, though this is decided on a case-by-case basis and will depend on your role. 3

The Department of Home Affairs when applying for a visa to live in Australia

There are questions regarding health in visa application forms and we recommend you answer honestly. If you provide false information this could affect your visa application.

In some cases you may be required to have a hepatitis B or hepatitis C test if you are applying to live in Australia. You can read more about who needs to have a test on the Department of Home Affairs website.

After your health examination, the Department of Home Affairs will work out how much your treatment will cost over the duration of your visa, or over ten years if it is a permanent visa. If the cost is less than $49,000 then it will not affect your visa application. For most people with hepatitis B or hepatitis C, the cost of treatment should not affect your visa.

Donating organs and sperm

You are not bound by law to disclose your hepatitis status in the situations outlined below. However, there are ethical guidelines that surround these practices, which mean they will test for hepatitis B and hepatitis C to ensure public safety before you are allowed to donate.

Donating organs

Organs are assessed to see if they are suitable for transplantation when they are donated. This includes tests to see if there is a risk of transmitting a blood borne virus (BBV) such as hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

If you have hepatitis B or hepatitis C, you may still be able to donate. However, this is determined on a case-by-case basis.4

Donating sperm

Clinics where you donate sperm will have procedures in place to test for hepatitis B and C. You cannot donate sperm if you have hepatitis B or hepatitis C, unless it is to be used in artificial insemination for your spouse.5

What about partners and family members?

If you have hepatitis B or C, it is your choice which friends and family you tell, but you should consider telling people who may have been exposed to the virus so they can get tested, and if necessary, receive treatment. If you don’t feel comfortable telling others who may have been exposed, you can ask your doctor to let them know anonymously.

You can read about how hepatitis is transmitted on these pages:

What is hepatitis B?     Preventing hepatitis C

For people with hepatitis B:

Although most people get hepatitis B at birth, it can be transmitted in other ways, including sex. You can get it through vaginal, anal or oral sex. There are specific laws in each state and territory regarding what you must do if you have sex when you have an STI. You can talk to a community legal centre if you would like more information about the laws in your state or territory.

Generally, if you have hepatitis B, you must take reasonable steps to avoid passing it on to your partner.6 It is very unlikely they will get hepatitis B if you have protected sex with a condom and they cannot catch it if they have immunity through vaccination.

It is also a good idea to tell people you live with that you have hepatitis B, so they can learn how to reduce their risk of exposure, as well as get tested and vaccinated.

If you have shared injecting equipment with someone, you should consider telling them so they can also get tested for hepatitis B.

For people with hepatitis C:

Hepatitis C is not considered a sexually transmissible infection, as the likelihood of sexual transmission is generally very low. However, there is some risk in anal sex and sex during menstruation.7 Therefore, if you have anal sex without a condom, or other sexual practices where blood may be present, you should consider telling the other person.

If you have shared injecting equipment with someone, you should consider telling them so they can also get tested for hepatitis C.

You can also read our tips for telling others you have hepatitis.



References

  1. Australian Red Cross Blood Service. (n.d.). I had hepatitis - can I donate? Retrieved from Australian Red Cross Blood Service: donateblood.com.au/faq/hepatitis

  2. Department of Health. (2018, December). Australian National Guidelines for the Management of Healthcare Workers Living with Blood Borne Viruses and Healthcare Workers who Perform Exposure Prone Procedures at Risk of Exposure to Blood Borne Viruses. Retrieved from Australian Government Department of Health: health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/cda-cdna-bloodborne.htm

  3. Disability Discrimination Act 1992. (2018, April 19). Australia: Federal Register of Legislation.

  4. Commonwealth Ombudsmen. (n.d). Overseas Visitors & Overseas Students. Retrieved from PrivateHealth.gov.au: https://www.privatehealth.gov.au/health_insurance/overseas/index.htm

  5. The Transplantation Society of Australia and New Zealand. (2016, April). Clinical Guidelines for Organ Transplantation from Deceased Donors. Retrieved from Donate Life: https://donatelife.gov.au/resources/clinical-guidelines-and-protocols/clinical-and-ethical-guidelines-organ-transplantation

  6. (2017). Ethical guidelines on the use of assisted reproductive technology in clinical practice and research. Retrieved from NHMRC: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/about-us/publications/ethical-guidelines-use-assisted-reproductive-technology

  7. (n.d.). Guide to Australian HIV Laws and Policies for Healthcare Professionals. Retrieved from ASHM: hivlegal.ashm.org.au/safe-behaviours-and-disclosure/

  8. Hepatitis NSW (2019, November). What You Need To Know: a guide to hepatitis C. Retrieved from Hepatitis NSW: https://www.hep.org.au/product/what-you-need-to-know-a-guide-to-hepatitis-c-booklet/ 

Page updated: 9 April 2020