Blood-borne virus (BBV) facts

Look after your blood, never share needles

  • HIV

    Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus which damages a person’s immune system, and makes it hard to fight off infections.

    HIV is most often spread by having unsafe sex or by sharing injecting equipment like needles and syringes.

    There is no cure for HIV but it can be treated. Over time, if a person with HIV does not get treatment for their condition, HIV can cause AIDS. This means the person’s immune system has become more damaged and is no longer able to fight off infections and cancer.

    However, people living with HIV and taking daily treatment can lead long and healthy lives, including having sexual relationships and being able to have children, and they will have a similar life expectancy to a person who does not have the virus.


    Effective treatments are available to manage HIV. The treatment is generally in the form of a tablet which needs to be taken daily. HIV can never be completely cleared from your body, so if you do have it, you must take steps to protect your health and the health of others.

  • Hepatitis B

    Hepatitis B is a virus which is mainly passed on by blood-to-blood contact. It can also be passed on through sex.

    Most people recover from hepatitis B infection, but some people develop chronic (lifelong) infection. People living with hepatitis B can look and feel healthy for many years but it can cause serious liver damage over time. People with chronic hepatitis B should be monitored regularly (every 6-12 months) by their GP for signs and symptoms of liver disease.

    A vaccine is available to protect you from hepatitis B. Adults receive 3 injections over 6 months. Since 2000, every baby born in Australia can receive a free hepatitis B vaccine at birth and further doses at 2, 4 and 6 months of age.


    If you have hepatitis B, treatment is available that can help slow down the liver damage that the virus can cause.

  • Hepatitis C

    Hepatitis C is a virus which is spread by blood-to-blood contact.

    Most people with hepatitis C get it by sharing injecting equipment like needles and syringes. You can get hepatitis C even if you only share needles or other equipment once.

    Most people don’t realise they have hepatitis C because they don’t have any symptoms at first. People with chronic (long term) hepatitis C can experience:

    • tiredness
    • loss of appetite
    • nausea
    • fever
    • joint pain
    • mood swings.

    If it isn’t treated, hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer, liver failure and death.


    Effective new treatments for hepatitis C are available, which have a shorter treatment course and have fewer side effects than treatments which were available until recently.

    For most people, the treatments that are available for hepatitis C will clear the virus from their body. The treatment is generally in the form of a tablet which needs to be taken daily for 12 weeks. If you have been treated, you can get hepatitis C again, so you always need to protect yourself.

  • Testing

    You can get tested for HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C through a blood test organised by a doctor.

  • Stop HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C

    If you inject drugs and share needles you could get HIV or hepatitis B or hepatitis C. Never share needles.

    Needle and syringe programs provide low cost or free needles and syringes with safe disposal containers. Most pharmacies also sell needles in packs. Learn more about where to find needle and syringe programs in WA (external site).

    If you are diagnosed with a blood-borne virus, it is important to protect yourself and others from further infection.

    • Never share needles or other drug injecting equipment
    • Always practise safe sex.

  • More about BBVs

    More information about blood-borne viruses can be found on Healthy WA (external site).

    You can also find further information about hepatitis at Hepatitis WA (external site), and the WA AIDS Council (external site) offers information about HIV and AIDS.

    For information on safer injecting practices, contact Peer Based Harm Reduction WA (external site).

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