Remember the time you were peacefully playing with your toys, minding your own business, and someone came up to you and asked you to share your toys with the other kids because “sharing is caring”? Growing up, we had to learn and unlearn many things we believed in as children – equating sharing to caring is probably one of them.
Sharing personal items like toothbrushes and razors may seem harmless, but it carries potential risks, especially in terms of transmitting blood-borne viruses such as hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV. In fact, around 1.5% of hepatitis C transmissions occur through the sharing of personal items that may contain blood.
It is important to understand that blood-borne viruses like hepatitis C and HIV are not typically transmitted through saliva. However, if there is blood present, which can happen due to bleeding while using your personal item, there is a risk of transmission.
“Hepatitis C can survive outside the body for up to 6 weeks, while HIV can only survive for a few minutes outside the body.”
In some settings, including prisons, camping trips, and houselessness, sharing toothbrushes is a common practice. This is not only a risk for transmitting HIV or viral hepatitis but also common viruses like cold and flu. Some bacterial mouth diseases, including gingivitis and periodontal disease, can also be transmitted through sharing toothbrushes. Ironically, sharing a toothbrush can compromise your oral hygiene, which can defeat the purpose of brushing your teeth in the first place.
In a situation where your personal toothbrush is unavailable, rinsing the mouth with fresh water or using toothpaste on a finger can be practiced as a temporary solution. Alternatively, a clean paper towel can be used to gently rub the teeth clean.
If you have been in a situation where there was a potential risk of transmitting viruses, it is always better to get tested.
Remember, there is a cure for Hepatitis C, and while there is no cure for HIV, there is effective treatment, which means an HIV-positive person can live a long and healthy life.
To learn more information about hepatitis and its symptoms transmission, risks, testing and treatment, visit here: https://tascahrd.org.au/hepatitis/