When/how to disclose hep b in a potential relationship?

Hi everyone, I have a question relating to dating with hep b: I was wondering if anyone had any experiences with dating with hep b, or had any advice on when/how to disclose having hep b to a potential partner (not dating yet)?

For some background, I’m a 21 year old woman who was born with hep b. I’m on treatment and my viral load is undetectable. Recently, a friend said he was interested in dating me. I know I have to disclose hep b before sex, but I’m pretty scared to even start dating people because that means I have to disclose. I’m afraid of the stigma that if other people know I have hep b, they’ll treat me differently or feel scared to be around me in fear of contracting it. I also know that having this condition can be a dealbreaker, which I’m prepared to deal with, but it would still make me sad. I’ve dated someone before who seemed like they were ok with it, but later said they weren’t ok with it. So it makes me cautious to tell people because I don’t like that feeling of uncertainty.

I’m also unsure of what I can or can’t do – like kissing. Some sources say that kissing doesn’t carry a risk of transmitting, but other sources online say that it is a method of transmission. Since my virus is undetectable, I think the risk would be relatively small, but I still wouldn’t want the other person to feel betrayed that I kissed them and didn’t first disclose. I know a vaccine is available, but I know some people would still not feel comfortable even if vaccinated.

Sorry, a lot of questions here lol! I think I’m just wondering how to date new people with hep b, especially when the physical part of relationships often go fast.

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Dear @Lala,

Thank you for your very important question.

Given your viral load is undetectable, there is only an extremely low chance of transmitting it to any potential partner. Take into consideration that a mother with a viral load of 10000 IU/mL (or lower) is unlikely to pass it onto their highly vulnerable new-born. We also allow surgeons with 1000 IU/mL (or lower) to practice surgery because there is very low risk of transmission even if there is an accidental cut. I hope these facts give you some comfort.

Regarding when you disclose your status, I guess this needs to be when you feel like you feel comfortable enough. I myself disclosed even before the first date with my now-wife, but everyone is different. Here are some tips from Hepatitis Australia:

Knowing when and how to disclose can be difficult. Some people may be supportive, whereas others may withdraw or even be angry. Often this is due to their lack of knowledge about the condition. Be prepared that a relationship may change.

Here are some tips that may help with the process:

  • Make sure you know the basics about hepatitis B so you can answer some of the more common questions.
  • Before you speak to them, practise how the conversation might go with a good friend, considering both best and worst scenarios.
  • Choose a meeting place where you feel comfortable and safe. Face-to-face is usually best, rather than through email, for instance.
  • Ask them to keep your diagnosis confidential.
  • Bring something you can show like a leaflet or point them to a website like Hepatitis Australia or the National Hepatitis Infoline phone number 1800 437 222.
  • Give the person time and space to digest what you tell them.
  • Look after your own mental health during and after disclosing.

Others have talked about similar issues of disclosure in other threads too:

Hope these help! Perhaps others can also share their experiences with talking to their partners about it.

Cheers,
Thomas

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Hi lala, I’m not sure whether you live in the U.S. or not? If so, then anyone in your age cohort should have already been vaccinated against hep b. The CDC recommended all newborns receive the hep b vaccine in 1991, and in 1997 there was a national “catch up” program to get middle schoolers vaccinated against hep b as well. Today, most young people your age have either been vaccinated at birth or more likely, with their regular baby immunizations.

In addition to the good guidance that Thomas shared above, it’s important that you realize that blood is a 2-way street. So often those of us living with hep b feel we’re the only contagious person. But a potential sexual partner can also have an infectious disease or STD. That’s why you might want to consider having “the medical talk” with a potential partner in terms of learning what THEY might have to share as well as your own condition. Additionally, you can talk about having a “vaccine-preventable infection” so that you can ask directly whether a potential partner has received the hep b vaccine. If they’re 24 years or younger, then the chances are excellent that they have been vaccinated, so your condition shouldn’t be an issue.

Finally, if you have a trusted friend or family member you could consider practicing a conversation so that you get more comfortable talking about this situation. Role playing make feel strange, but it really does help you gain more confidence.

Thanks so much for sharing your question and hopefully others will also be able to share their experiences and insights with you!! Always, Joan

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Thanks Thomas and Joan for your responses!
As someone who is quite private, I find it difficult to talk about this personal thing with other people. Ideally, a part of me wishes to tell everyone I have hep b, but unfortunately due to discrimination and other situations, I feel I can’t do that, at least not now.

And yep, I do live in North America and I remember there being mandatory hep b vaccines in middle school. And in high school if you didn’t have your full vaccination record (included hep b), you couldn’t go to school. So I’m sure most people I grew up with are vaccinated. Also, Joan, I like your point on blood being a 2-way street. Sometimes I feel like knowing I have hep b so young is a double-edged sword, but I’d very much rather know and be able to treat it and prevent it from transmitting vs not know.

For reasons entirely not related to hep b, I decided not to date the friend I mentioned in my first post. I’m not sure when I’ll find someone I’m interested in dating, but I think when that time comes I’ll know and if it feels right I’ll feel comfortable in disclosing!

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Dear lala, I completely agree that knowing one has hep b is better than not knowing so we can take active steps to manage the infection. Although it can feel like a heavy weight around your neck when navigating the dating and sex situations, I also agree that you will find someone who will be understanding (and most likely vaccinated!) and someone you trust. As painful as it is to be rejected because of hep b, a friend of mine said she’d much rather know from the beginning if someone is a loser than waste time on them! Good luck and please continue to share insights, concerns and questions on this forum. We all learn from each other! Always, Joan

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Also remember that just bc someone rejects you because you told them you have hepatitis B, does not make that person a bad person. It’s their choice to get involved with someone with STD or STI. I don’t like how hepatitis b is labeled that way.

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Very good point @NeptuneJ about not blaming the person who chooses to stay away from hep b. Although honestly, I think that if someone does their homework and understands what hep b is, how it can be easily prevented with a vaccine, then this diagnosis shouldn’t be a barrier. But then again, if the chemistry isn’t there, then the other person may not want to make the investment of time. And yes, I understand that having hep b labeled as an STD/STI (sexually transmitted disease or infection) is a turn-off, but here in the U.S. sexual transmission is the primary mode of transmission! Outside of the U.S., maternal-child transmission is the most common mode of transmission; that is, an infected mother can unknowingly pass the virus to her newborn during the delivery process (and even during pregnancy, especially the last trimester). So that’s one of the main reasons hep b is considered an STD/STI. So glad you presented another point of view!! Always, Joan

Hello @lala,
Thank you for sharing. I completely understand what you going through. I am 25 and for many years after I was diagnosed (18) I completely shut myself of from other people. I did not date at all cause I was afraid to disclose my status. I was terrified about the reaction, the possible rejection, and the possibility that this person would tell other people. It was really really hard cause all of my friends were dating and I felt so alone.

But learning more about HBV really helped me as I was able to talk to other people about it. Of course it’s still difficul. I am very picky and I get nervous talking about it. But, keep in mind that people should be so lucky to date you. Your status is not someting they have to put up and definitely does not define you. It’s at most a small incovencience as they have to take a couple of blood tests.

I won’t repeat what already been said -which is very very helpful. Eventually there is a matter of trusting the person you want to date. Be cautious, yes, but do not let that get in a way of your happiness.

Take care,
Drew

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This is exactly same with me here in Australia.

Hi there Evans,

Welcome to the community! Thank you for your post and participation. The disclosure of HBV in a potential relationship seems to be a hot topic. There has also been a new topic created about a week ago that may be of interest to you.

Maybe if enough people post, something can come of it. I can see the potential benefit for people with CHB wanting to date and not having to disclose because both parties already know they have CHB.

Again, welcome to hepbcommunity and I am sure you will find a lot of support here.

-Paul

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Thanks so much as I feel more comfortable, having been with a group that accepts and support, gives me the strength to push. It is honestly heart broken when you disclose your health status and someone turns you down it makes you feel insecure. Please, are there any health problems if two partners are having HBV?
Thanks

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Hi Evan,

I’d like to join Paul in welcoming you to the forum and hope you can find the support you need here.

As far as health risk is concerned, there are no additional risks associated if both partners are HBV-positive. And there is little risk if one partner is HBV-positive and the other is fully vaccinated (with an antibody level of more than 10mIU/mL).

Cheers,
Thomas

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Hi Evans, I’d like to reaffirm what Thomas and Paul have written already in response to your posting (and thank you for sharing with us your concerns! We all benefit). The only thing that I would say about dating or getting sexually involved with another person who has hep b is to make sure that you have both been tested for hepatitis delta (hepatitis D). This is a virus that only infects people already chronically infected with hep b. Although a hepatitis delta co-infection is not common, it is something one should be aware of. All it takes is a simple blood test, so it’s easy to get tested. Thanks again for sharing!! Always, Joan

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Hi LalA,

It’s great that you are proactively thinking about how to disclose. HepB doesn’t define you and I believe someone who truly cares about you won’t care.

My last bf did not disclose until after we had repeatedly been intimate. I forgave him but to be honest it was hard to move past the dishonesty. Anytime he was “selfish” I kept thinking of how he did not disclose.

Anyway, I don’t think it should stop you from pursuing a relationship. But disclosing it before you are intimate is best.

Good Luck

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Hi @P, I completely agree with you that it’s important for folks who have hep b - or ANY medical condition that could affect/infect a sexual partner - should be disclosed in advance. It’s not right to put someone else’s health at risk. And as @P wrote, it starts a relationship off on the wrong foot. Honesty is a key bedrock principle for a healthy relationship. Thanks for posting this message and being “kind” in your concluding remarks despite not being initially told! Always, Joan

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Thanks everyone for your replies, I read them all :slight_smile: I have a small update - a few months ago I told the person about my hepatitis b diagnosis and he took it pretty well. I started off by saying that I have a liver condition that I was born with and described what it is, how it affected me, how I’m managing it right now, etc. I then told him it was hepatitis b and said that there was a vaccine for it. I was really scared to disclose it, but I think it went pretty well. He said that he would get booster shots and that he didn’t want this to be a reason we couldn’t be together. He also really sympathized with me as I was born with it. We also talked about the stigma associated with hepatitis b and how it sounds scarier than it is (he researched about hep b after I told him and said that to me). I honestly thought he wouldn’t want to be with me anymore after I told him, but I realized this was me projecting my own fears. The reality was very different.

Unfortunately, our relationship ended for unrelated reasons (personality differences), but his response made me happy. Since then, I haven’t told another person as there’s no one I’m interested in dating right now, but I hope this message might help others who may find themselves in a similar place. It’s still difficult for me to talk about these things, but I feel that the right person will try to understand!

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Hi Lala, thanks so much for sharing your uplifting and inspiring story about successfully sharing your hep b diagnosis to a partner. Most of us know how tough that is to do because we’re so afraid of hep b preventing us from having an intimate relationship. But I’m really proud that you took the risk and that it turned out well. Even though the relationship ended for other reasons, it’s wonderful that you have a success story behind you to give you courage and strength for the next time. And we all sincerely hope that the next time will be the right one!! Always, Joan

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Thanks @lala for reporting back. Your story is really a great example and I think brings hope to everyone here.

Very much appreciated,
Thomas

Thanks guys for this amazing information!

Thank you very much for sharing! I really appreciate it and feeling blessed to find this page and community!
I wanna share my story. Disclaimer: I’m not really good in English, but now better than before, so I can read and understand this page.

Ok. I’m Indonesian woman and being diagnosed HepB in 2011. My family also checked the status after it and found out that they’re positive too (Mom and my sister). I was really shock and denial. Until now, I let my insecurity about this matter stay with me, without try so hard to know more about this! Yeah it’s right, it’s me projecting my own fear!
In Indonesia, I think there are less information about this. It gives me courage to share with other people in Indonesia to know more about this and don’t be afraid about their Hep B status.

Thanks Lala for starting this sharing session and all of you that share your answer or insight!

Bless you all!

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Thanks for sharing your story, @Daisyjun. It’s really great to hear you so empowered by hearing other people’s experiences here!

I myself started this forum because others before me had publicly announced their status and started talking about it, giving me the courage to do the same for everyone that I knew. It’s a chain reaction and hopefully one that keeps spreading so that we can start overcoming the stigma in society associated with Hep B.

TT