Coinfection with HIV and hepatitis C virus among injection drug users in southern China

Rebecca J Garten, Jinbing Zhang, Shenghan Lai, Wei Liu, Jie Chen, Xiao-Fang Yu
Clinical Infectious Diseases 2005 July 1, 41: S18-24

BACKGROUND: We sought to examine coinfection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) among injection drug users (IDUs) in Guangxi, China.

METHODS: A longitudinal cohort of IDUs (547 subjects) was established to study risk factors for bloodborne infections. At each visit, participants completed questionnaires defining demographic characteristics, patterns of drug use, and sexual behaviors. Blood samples were collected and analyzed for the presence and genotype of HIV and HCV.

RESULTS: Coinfection with HIV and HCV was found in 17.6% of the IDUs. HCV was present in 95.1% of HIV-positive and 70.4% of HIV-negative heroin users. The prevalence of HIV in HCV-positive and HCV-negative heroin users was 23.4% and 3.6%, respectively. Multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that sexual activity during the past 6 months and duration of injection drug use were significantly associated with coinfection with HIV and HCV. The main circulating HCV genotypes included 6a (38%), 3b (37%), and 1a (19%), whereas genotypes 6e (4%), 3a (2%), and 1b (1%) were present in only a few IDUs. Multiple HCV genotypes were present at each study site and did not segregate by HIV status or subtype.

CONCLUSIONS: HCV is highly prevalent in IDUs throughout southern China. In Guangxi, HIV infections are the result of parenteral and sexual transmission, and, therefore, all IDUs are at high risk of coinfection with HIV and HCV. Molecular tracking of HCV may be a more sensitive predictor of the future spread of the HIV-1 epidemic than is HIV subtyping. This study emphasizes that, without implementation of injection prevention and primary substance abuse programs in China, the extent and effect of coinfection with HIV and HCV will only increase.

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