Hepatitis C virus seroprevalence among people who inject drugs and factors associated with infection in eight Russian cities

Robert Heimer, Ksenia Eritsyan, Russell Barbour, Olga S Levina
BMC Infectious Diseases 2014, 14: S12

BACKGROUND: Behavioural surveillance among people who inject drugs (PWID) and testing for hepatitis C virus (HCV) and HIV is needed to understand the scope of both epidemics in at-risk populations and to suggest steps to improve their health.

METHODS: PWID were recruited using respondent-driven sampling (RDS) in eight Russian cities. A standardized survey was administered to collect sociodemographic and behavioral information. Blood specimens were obtained for serological testing for HCV and HIV-1. Data across the eight sites were pooled to identify individual-, network-, and city-level factors associated with positive HCV serostatus.

RESULTS: Among 2,596 PWID participating in the study, 1,837 tested positive for HCV (71%). The sample was 73% male and the mean age was 28. Very few PWID reported regular contact with harm reduction programs. Factors associated with testing positive for HCV were longer duration of injection drug use, testing positive for HIV-1, sharing non-syringe injection paraphernalia and water for rinsing syringes, and larger social network size. Factors negatively associated with HCV-positive serostatus were injecting with a used syringe and two city-level factors: longer mean RDS recruitment chain in a city and higher levels of injecting stimulants.

CONCLUSIONS: HCV prevalence in all eight Russian cities is at the higher end of the range of HCV prevalence among PWID in Europe, which provides evidence that more resources, better prevention programs, and accelerated treatment targeting PWID are needed to control the HCV epidemic.

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