Prevalence of hepatitis C in an ethnically diverse HIV-1-infected cohort in south London

A H Mohsen, S Murad, P J Easterbrook
HIV Medicine 2005, 6 (3): 206-15

OBJECTIVES: There is limited information on the prevalence of and risk factors for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among HIV-1-infected patients in the UK. Our objective was to determine the prevalence of HCV infection among an ethnically diverse cohort of HIV-infected patients in south London, and to extrapolate from these data the number of co-infected patients in the UK.

METHODS: A total of 1017 HIV-1-infected patients who had attended King's College Hospital HIV clinic between September 2000 and August 2002 were screened for HCV antibody using a commercial enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Positive results were confirmed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or recombinant immunoblot assay. Demographic, clinical and laboratory data were obtained from the local computerized database and medical records. We applied our HCV prevalence rates in the different HIV transmission groups to the estimated number of HIV-infected persons in these groups in the UK, to obtain a national estimate of the level of HIV-HCV co-infection.

RESULTS: Of the 1017 HIV-1-infected patients, 407 (40%) were white men, 158 (15.5%) were black African men, 268 (26.3%) were black African women, and 61 (6%) and 26 (2.6%) were black Caribbean men and women, respectively. Heterosexual exposure was the most common route of HIV acquisition (53.5%), followed by men having sex with men (36.9%), and current or previous injecting drug use (IDU) (7.2%). The overall prevalence of HCV co-infection was 90/1017 (8.9%), but this varied substantially according to route of transmission, from 82.2% among those with a history of IDU (which accounted for 67% of all HCV infections), to 31.8% in those who had received blood products, to 3.5% and 1.8% in those with homosexually and heterosexually acquired infection, respectively. Multivariate logistic regression analysis identified several independent risk factors for HCV infection: a history of IDU [odds ratio (OR) = 107.2; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 38.5-298.4], having received blood products (OR = 16.5; 95% CI = 5.1-53.7), and either being from a white ethnic group (OR = 4.3; 95% CI = 1.5-12.0) or being born in Southern Europe (OR = 6.7; 95% CI = 1.5-30.7). Based on the 35,473 known HIV-1-infected persons in the UK and the 10 997 estimated to be unaware of their status, we projected that there are at least 4136 HIV-HCV co-infected individuals in the UK and 979 who are unaware of their status.

CONCLUSIONS: Overall, 9% of our cohort was HIV-HCV co-infected. The prevalence was highest among intravenous drug users (82%), who accounted for most of our HCV cases, and lowest among heterosexual men and women from sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean [< 2%]. Our estimate that a significant number of co-infected persons may be unaware of their HIV and HCV status, highlights an urgent need to increase the uptake of HCV and HIV testing, particularly among injecting drug users, to reduce the risk of onward transmission.

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