What is Hepatitis B?
Hepatitis B is a liver infection caused by the hepatitis B virus. After you're infected, it can take from one to five months for symptoms to develop. Many people who are infected experience mild symptoms or none at all, but others will be sick for weeks. This first period of infection is known as acute hepatitis B.
There is no treatment for acute hepatitis B, but most people who become infected will recover within 6 months on their own. In some cases the body cannot clear the virus and the person will develop what's called chronic hepatitis B. This is a long-term illness which can cause serious damage to the liver.
Hepatitis B is a blood-borne virus so it is most easily spread through direct contact with infected blood, but it can also be transmitted through unprotected sexual activity. The only way to know if you are infected with hepatitis B is through a blood test.
Fortunately there's a vaccine that's available for free to any man who has sex with other men. The vaccine is extremely effective in stopping hepatitis B infection and you can get it at an STI/GUM or through your GP.