In areas where hepatitis is endemic, little is known about the sexual transmission of HBV after introduction of an HBV vaccination program.
We used a self-administered questionnaire and serological tests for HBsAg, anti-HBs, anti-HBc, and anti-HCV to examine the role of sexual activity, as well as sociodemographic status, lifestyle habits, and a history of vaccinations, transfusions, and surgery, in the transmission of HBV and HCV in Korea. The subjects were 865 female and 541 male university students (median age, 19 years; age range, 16–25).
Overall seropositivity was 8.1% for HBsAg, 69.3% for anti-HBs, 21.3% for anti-HBc, and 0.4% for anti-HCV. Regarding HBV, 8% of the subjects were chronic carriers or had recently been infected, 22.8% were never exposed and nonvaccinated, 16.6% were exposed noncarriers, and 52.7% had most likely been vaccinated. We found a significant association between HBsAg seropositivity and history of sexual intercourse (Odds Ratio, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.1–2.8). Students without serologic evidence of immunization against HBV were more likely to have become HBsAg-positive after becoming sexually active.
Our findings suggest that sexual transmission does occur among adolescents and young adults who have not been vaccinated, whereas vaccination protects individuals from becoming an HBV carrier after becoming sexually active.