If you have either hepatitis B or hepatitis C there are a few things you should consider.

Telling others you have hepatitis B or C

Partners, families and friends can play an important role in providing emotional and practical support to you but there is no guarantee that they will respond as supportively as you would like. They may need time to understand what a chronic condition like hepatitis B or hepatitis C means, so it may be useful to have information or website links on hand if you decide to tell others.

In Australia, there are only a small number of situations in which you are required by law to disclose that you have hep B or hep C, or have ever had hep C:

  • The blood bank must be informed in pre-blood donation questionnaires (because you cannot donate blood if you have either hep B or hep C).
  • Health care workers who perform ‘exposure prone procedures’, which is when a health care worker uses a sharp instrument inside the body of another person, for example, a dentist or surgeon.
  • Some insurance policies (particularly life insurance) require that you tell the insurer about any infections, disabilities, or illnesses that might influence their decision whether to insure you (or to adjust your premium). Income protection insurance may also fall into this category.
  • If you are a member of the Australian Defence Force (Navy, Army, or Air Force) and you have hep B or currently have hep C, you will have to disclose this. You may be required to leave the forces if you have either, although this is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Remember, if you only have hepatitis B or hepatitis C antibodies you may need a test to confirm you no longer have either virus in your blood.

Sexual partners

Talking to sexual partners about having a virus or other health issues can be challenging but it is important.  Hepatitis B is considered to be both a sexually transmitted infection and blood-borne infection. Hepatitis C is rarely transmitted sexually but it is understood this may occur where blood may be involved (eg. during rougher sex or when there are abrasions)

In Australia there have been legal cases where one person has passed on a virus (such as HIV) to another person during unprotected sex and had not previously informed their sexual about having the virus.

If you are having protected sex (using condoms) then the risk of transmitting an infection is greatly reduced or removed.

Discrimination

Having hepatitis does not mean that you should be treated differently from anyone else. This applies to all aspects of your everyday life, including maintaining privacy, buying or renting goods or services, obtaining health care services, applying for a job or getting a promotion at work.

As a person with hepatitis, you are covered by anti-discrimination laws. If something happens that seems discriminatory, you can access advice from work-related organisations such as your workplace union, a community legal centre, or from the anti-discrimination agency in your state or territory. You can also contact your local hepatitis organisation on 1800 437 222 if you need support.

Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C in the workplace

Generally, at work you are under no obligation to inform employers, work colleagues or customers about your hepatitis.   This includes pre-employment health checks.  All questions should be about the advertised job and employers have no legal reason to know about your hepatitis. As mentioned above, the exception is if you are a health care worker who specifically carries out exposure prone procedures (higher risk of blood exposure), or if you are a member of the Australian Defence Force, in which case you have a responsibility to disclose.

Your biggest workplace concern may be in taking time off due to hepatitis related illness or unexpected treatment side-effects. If you don’t want your employer to know about your hepatitis, ask your doctor to be non-specific when he or she fills in your time-off work certificate (e.g. medical condition rather than liver illness or hep C).

If you decide to tell your supervisor, they are legally required to maintain your privacy and support employees with any health considerations where reasonable.

Superannuation and insurance

If your hepatitis gets to a point where you become too ill to continue working, you may seek to withdraw some of your superannuation funds. This can usually only be done on compassionate grounds or in cases of severe financial hardship. For more information about this, you should talk to your superannuation provider or the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) on 1300 131 060.

Superannuation funds usually provide default disability and death insurance cover. Your medical history is not needed for this default level, but it may be required if you want higher levels of cover (such as income protection) or if you want to make a claim.

It is not unlawful for superannuation funds to ask if you have hepatitis or other infectious diseases, or whether you inject recreational drugs when they are considering your application for insurance cover.

If you feel you have been treated unfairly in regard to superannuation or insurance cover, phone the National Hepatitis Information Line 1800 437 222 for further information.

MORE INFORMATION

For more information you can contact the National Hepatitis Infoline on 1800 437 222.


Page updated: 06 June 2019