Hepatitis and HIV are both viral diseases that affect the liver negatively, whether big or small effects depending on the disease state. There is a general misconception that HIV is a more dreadful disease than Hepatitis, hence the intense focus on HIV and its patients, but in truth, Hepatitis and HIV are fatal diseases with high mortality rates if left untreated. Hepatitis has different types, but viral hepatitis is caused by the Human papillomavirus (HPV). HIV also has two different types (HIV-1 and HIV-2), and one is majorly common than the other. Although there is higher discrimination with HIV patients, the deaths caused by HIV reduces per year, hence the absurdity of HIV patients discrimination.
What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver as a result of high alcohol intake, hepatitis virus, certain medications, and so on. As simple as the definition sounds, hepatitis can be a chronic disease and can become an endemic if left unchecked.
The liver is one of the most crucial organs of the body, whose functions affect metabolism throughout the body. Do you know that your liver produces enzymes which are the major criteria for several, if not all chemical or metabolic reactions in the body? It also helps to break down carbohydrates, proteins, and fat.
Now, when the liver is inflamed, it means swelling in simple terms, and this swelling hinders the liver from carrying out its functions. Inflammation of the liver also leads to liver failure and can cause portal hypertension, ascites, kidney failure, and even death.
Symptoms of hepatitis can include:
- loss of appetite
- dark urine
- abdominal pain
- pale stool
It is important to note that many people with hepatitis do not know that they are infected, and this is because (depending on the type of hepatitis) the body expels the virus quickly. Other times, symptoms do not occur until weeks and months after exposure. In fact, with chronic viral hepatitis, symptoms might take years before they become obvious.
I had a personal experience when I was doing my student internship in the laboratory. A man came as a donor for his little girl because her blood volume was low, and his blood matched hers. We took his blood for a compatibility test, and sadly, he had hepatitis B. Even though the man was looking and probably feeling fine, he had a viral infection that blood could transmit.
As much as you feel fine, create time to go for a medical checkup as often as possible.
Types and causes of Hepatitis
There are lots of causes depending on the type. And, there are different types of hepatitis including autoimmune hepatitis, viral hepatitis, toxic hepatitis, and alcoholic hepatitis.
Let’s examine them more closely.
- VIRAL HEPATITIS
This is the most common type of hepatitis and, as the name implies, viruses cause this hepatitis. Viral hepatitis is infectious hepatitis; they can be transmitted to others, and this is alarming because there are five types of viral hepatitis namely: A, B, C, D, and E.
Hepatitis A, B, and C are the most prevalent, especially in the United States, with B and C in Africa. Hepatitis D is a rare viral hepatitis and is often associated with people that have hepatitis B. There has been a discovery that the hepatitis D virus can only multiply in the presence of the hepatitis B virus. Meanwhile, hepatitis E is a water-borne viral hepatitis caused by the hepatitis E virus and can spread through contact with infected feces (the fecal-oral route).
|Hepatitis A||Hepatitis B||Hepatitis C|
|Caused by hepatitis A Virus.||Caused by hepatitis B Virus.||Caused by hepatitis C Virus.|
|Highly contagious and spreads through the fecal-oral route.||Very contagious and spreads through contact with contaminated body fluids such as blood or semen.||Highly contagious and spreads through contact with contaminated blood.|
|It is mild and usually taken care of by the immune system.||It can be mild or lead to chronic diseases, such as cirrhosis or cancer.||Usually chronic but can also be mild.|
|Eating uncooked food increases the risk of having hepatitis A.||Having unprotected sex or sharing sharp instruments increases the risk factor.||Sharing sharp instruments or public piercing instruments.|
|Can be avoided by good hygiene and proper food preparation.||Safe sex or abstinence and avoid sharing sharp instruments.||Sterilization takes care of this, but it’s better to avoid sharing sharp instruments.|
|Vaccination is available.||Vaccination is available.||No vaccination yet, although there are claims that there is vaccination in China.|
Hepatitis B and C can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her unborn child, and they are the leading causes of liver failure, liver cancer, liver cirrhosis, and also liver transplant.
Viral hepatitis is just as dangerous as HIV, perhaps even more because most infected persons are not even aware that they are carriers of such a dangerous virus. What can be worse than that? Viral hepatitis can easily be detected through a blood test, however, other tests can determine the extent of the disease, such as MRI, liver biopsy, imaging, liver function test, and so on.
- ALCOHOLIC HEPATITIS
One function of the liver is to break down alcohol, so consuming more alcohol than the liver can break down can cause damage to the liver, hence, inflammation. This isn’t something that occurs overnight, though. It occurs mainly in people that consume alcohol over a long period and also in people who have fatty liver. There is no known drug to cure alcoholic hepatitis, but treatment is done to protect the liver from further damage and control prior damage. Patients are also advised to stay away from alcohol completely.
- TOXIC HEPATITIS
Toxic hepatitis is caused by overexposure to drugs, chemicals, poisons, and even alcohol. Medical practitioners have strongly frowned against the use of over-the-counter drugs because most times, there are no medical prescriptions on them.
The liver breaks down most drugs that are introduced into the body, and these drugs release by-products that can damage the liver and cause scarring (cirrhosis). Apart from drugs, poison or certain chemicals that could be in supplements or food preservatives can also cause toxic hepatitis. The effects of these might be rapid sometimes, but other times, it might take months before the effects show.
The risk of having toxic hepatitis is increased in females as studies have shown that females absorb and break down alcohol slower than men. Also, the effects of these toxins on the liver are usually irreversible, even though the liver has a strong regenerating capacity. Hence, treatment is done only to protect the liver from further damage.
- AUTOIMMUNE HEPATITIS
There are two types of autoimmune hepatitis – type 1 and type 2, and it happens when the body confuses the liver for an antigen and attacks it. The reason is unknown, but one’s environment and genetics have been said to be involved.
There is an increase in the risk factor for autoimmune hepatitis in females and people with underlining autoimmune disorders.
Autoimmune hepatitis can be treated either by a liver transplant, or the doctor can try to slow or stop the immune system attack on the liver.
Treatment for Hepatitis
Hepatitis treatment depends on the type of hepatitis and how advanced it is. For instance, Hepatitis A is mild, and treatment is unnecessary because the body’s immune system takes care of it. You can take a lot of water, rest, and also treat the fever, but that’s not a must.
For hepatitis B and C, treatment is based on controlling the virus, treating the manifested illnesses, and protecting the liver from further damage. Some advanced hepatitis B and C might require a transplant, and treatment is closely monitored to prevent a collapse or relapse. Anti-viral drugs are also used to treat some patients, depending on your doctor, how far the virus has progressed, and other factors.
There are no drugs currently for hepatitis D. Although there was a development, it wasn’t a hundred percent effective. But since hepatitis D requires hepatitis B to multiply, it can be prevented by taking vaccination for hepatitis B.
There are also no drugs currently to treat hepatitis E, but since it isn’t usually chronic, and it’s also similar to hepatitis A, patients are advised to avoid alcohol and drink more water. Also, plenty of rest is necessary, while the immune system takes care of the rest. Note that hepatitis E can become serious in pregnant women.
Read up on the definition of HIV/AIDS: HIV/AIDS: SHUN STIGMA, YOU ARE LOVED
Read HIV/AIDS Antiretroviral drugs treatment and what they mean: UNDERSTANDING HIV/AIDS TREATMENT FOR A HEALTHY LIVING
N.B: We aren’t talking excessively on HIV because we have over 3 posts on it already, thanks.
Comparison between Hepatitis and HIV
There are several angles to make a comparison between Hepatitis and HIV, but would be thoroughly discussed in another blog post. The comparisons below are based on points discussed in this post.
Similarities between Hepatitis and HIV:
- Similar symptoms like fever, headache, fatigue, etc.
- Hepatitis and HIV are both viral diseases
- Both have different types with one more chronic than the other
- Highly contagious
- Both Hepatitis and HIV can spread through blood
Note: There are other similarities between Hepatitis and HIV, depending on a specific type of hepatitis.
Differences between Hepatitis and HIV:
- Hepatitis majorly affects the liver, while HIV affects the immune cells.
- Not all Hepatitis types are sexually transmitted.
- Not all Hepatitis types are lifelong, unlike HIV.
- No vaccination is available for any type of HIV.
- HIV does not live long outside the body, hence less contraction through food.
Note: There are other detailed differences to be addressed in future posts.
With these basic understandings, Hepatitis appears to be more complicated and dangerous than HIV. In my introduction, I talked about the misconception around HIV being more dreadful than Hepatitis, and due to this, we generally pay less attention to Hepatitis like we do HIV. This hasty generalization coupled with the fact that Hepatitis symptoms can take a while to manifest has led to much more death among Hepatitis patients than HIV.
I hope we can begin to educate ourselves on hepatitis and talk more about it. Hopefully, we will eventually see a reduction in the mortality rates of hepatitis regardless of the types.