Health conditions

Blood-borne viruses

Blood-borne viruses (or BBVs) are viruses that can be passed on if the blood of a person who has the virus gets into another person’s bloodstream.

Some blood-borne viruses can also be passed on through sex by semen, vaginal fluids or anal fluids.

Who is at risk?

You can get a blood-borne virus when the blood of somebody with a bloodborne virus gets into your blood such as through sex, sharing injecting drugs equipment, or from a mother to her child during pregnancy or birth.

Get tested for blood-borne viruses if:

  • you have shared needles or injecting equipment
  • you didn’t use new tattoo or piercing equipment
  • you got a tattoo or piercing outside Australia
  • you have shared shaving razors or toothbrushes
  • you had a job where human blood or human fluids was involved
  • you had a blood transfusion in Australia before 1990 or overseas at any time
  • you have had contact with someone else’s blood in a fight
  • you had vagina, anal (bum) or oral (mouth) sex with no condom
  • the condom broke or fell off during sex
  • you can’t remember if you used a condom when you had sex – for example if you were drunk or had drugs
  • had sex with a new person
  • had more than one sex partner in the last year
  • and your partner are trying to have a baby
  • or your sex partner/s have ever injected drugs.
What are the signs and symptoms?

It's hard to tell if you have a blood-borne virus. You might not show any signs you're sick or it can take many years before you become sick.

Get tested for blood-borne viruses if you think you may be at risk. Some people have no symptoms all, but others may have some of these symptoms.

Hepatitis C or Hepatitis B

  • Your skin is turning yellow.
  • The white part of your eyes are turning yellow.
  • Your pee is a dark colour like tea.
  • Your poo is a very light colour.
  • You do not feel hungry or you start eating less.
  • You feel like you want to vomit often.


  • You have headaches.
  • You have a fever.
  • You feel like you have the flu.
How do I know if I have a BBV?

The only way to know for sure if you have a blood-borne virus is to get a blood test.

You can ask for a test at any health clinic or doctor. You do not have to say to your health worker why you think you could have a blood-borne virus. They will have a private talk with you before the test to tell you what to expect.

A blood-borne virus test is free if you have a Medicare card, so you will only need to pay for the appointment with your health worker, at some services this is free too.

Find a testing service.

How are BBVs treated?

Each blood-borne virus has different treatment

Hepatitis C

There is medicine that can cure hepatitis C after two or three months. The medicine should not make you feel sick.

Hepatitis B

If you have hepatitis B, it’s important to see the doctor once or twice a year so they can check your liver. The doctor can give you medicines to help keep your liver healthy.


If you get HIV, it stays in your body forever. While there is currently no cure for HIV, it can be managed by antiretroviral medication

If you take your HIV medicine you can live a long and healthy life. Taking the medicine can also lower the chances that you will give HIV to other people.

How are BBVs prevented?

There are things you can do to protect yourself from blood-borne viruses:

  • use condoms, dams and water-based lubricant every time you have sex
  • if you inject drugs, use a new needle every time - never share needles and other injecting equipment, even with friends and family
  • use new needles for body piercing or tattooing
  • only use your own toothbrush, dental floss and shaving equipment
  • don’t let other people’s blood get into your blood – cover all cuts and sores
  • get tested for blood-borne viruses as soon as possible when you’re pregnant, to keep you and your baby healthy.

Where to get help

For people who inject drugs

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