Partner told me her chronic HBV after having unprotected sex

I have been in a dilemma for the last week or so as my partner told me she has chronic HBV after we have unprotected sex. When we had sex, she proposed to have it unprotected although I hesitated once.

When she told me about her HBV status days after the unprotected sex, I was literally sweating. I have some basic knowledge of HBV, so I knew I should be fine if antibodies were presented but I just didn’t know my antibody status.

As it was during Christmas/New Year’s holiday, I couldn’t find any GP available for a blood test in Sydney. I waited with anxiety until when I got tested the day before yesterday and the test result shows that I have no surface Ag and have a high level of surface Ab (>1000 IU/L).

I am relieved but only to some extent, because I cannot stop thinking why my partner did not disclose her status before she proposing unprotected sex.

She told me she contracted the HBV from her mother during birth. She received vaccine during the birth but the vaccine did not work on her.

I really have mixed feelings about this situation where I am in.
I love her and I’m worried about her. I wish I could take care of her.
On the other hand, the way she handles the whole thing hurts me a lot and made me question about her morality.

She said the reason she did not disclose it before unprotected sex is that she was confident that I should have been vaccinated during birth. The last time I checked for HBV antibodies was back in 2008, so even myself cannot tell what my current status is without a blood test.

To make things more disappointing, she works as an epidemic prevention worker, so I guess she has much better knowledge than I do about HBV.

The whole thing just makes me so sad and frustrated.

I don’t think I will be ok to date with someone with some morality issues, however, given what has happened, I can’t be sure about her morality - maybe she truly believed I had antibodies so I would be ok to be exposed to HBV?
Also, I do not wish to make her feel discriminated. I do not wish to hurt her in any ways.

I need some advice please. What should I do? I appreciate your time and help.

1 Like

Dear @DavidU,

Welcome to the forum and for bringing your issue here. It is certainly a difficult situation.

Here are some facts to help you with your issue:

  1. Your partner’s experience is not uncommon. Based on published data, birth dose vaccination fails in 2-10% of people but this number may underestimate the true vaccination failure rate in this specific situation (maternal transmission) and is much higher for certain indigenous groups. This is caused by the high degree of genetic plasticity of HBV infection, which generates many immune escape variants. It is important to understand that for non-maternal transmission (such as unprotected sex), vaccination failure is a extremely rare event.
  2. Unprotected intercourse is a high risk behavior for transmission of HBV. Any person with chronic HBV infection wanting to engage in this kind of high risk behavior has a moral obligation to inform any partner prior engaging in high risk activity and discussing the issue. This is true for any sexually transmitted disease but especially for HBV, which is a life long infection with a potentially lethal impact.
  3. It seems as though you have already been vaccinated. As such you are adequately protected from developing chronic HBV infection (but not from transmission of other sexually transmitted diseases).

Hopefully this information helps you.

Best regards,

2 Likes

Welcome to the forum and thanks for sharing your stressful experiences, @DavidU.

This is a hard thing to grapple with on both sides. I understand the hurt you must be feeling in this situation. This is something people with hepatitis B also struggle a lot with (see other threads on this: When/how to disclose hep b in a potential relationship?). People with Hep B are generally not coached on how to raise this condition with others and some might have already had bad experiences with rejection in the past when raising it.

Some people may justify to themselves that we don’t need to go through this very stressful disclosure. I personally don’t think it necessarily makes one a immoral person, if they can convince themselves that they are OK. Indeed, most people are vaccinated for Hep B in Australia, and the risk of female-to-male transmission is quite low. As @availlant as mentioned however, there are other STIs that you may also be placing each other at risk of.

Perhaps a good way to address it is simply talk about your feelings with her and have a mutually respectful discussion with understanding in mind. The way you have put them here, I think these are reasonable worries and worth exploring together to clear the air rather than let resentment grow.

Hope this helps,
Thomas