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SAMJ: South African Medical Journal

On-line version ISSN 2078-5135
Print version ISSN 0256-9574


GOGELA, N A et al. Hepatitis C prevalence in HIV-infected heterosexual men and men who have sex with men. SAMJ, S. Afr. med. j. [online]. 2018, vol.108, n.7, pp.568-572. ISSN 2078-5135.

BACKGROUND. Globally 1% of individuals are infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV). In South Africa (SA) the prevalence ranges between 0.3% and 1%, with few prospective screening data available. Similarly, local data on transmission modes of HCV are limited, but probably include parenteral routes and pre-1992 blood or blood products. The risk of heterosexual transmission of HCV is low but is increased in men who have sex with men (MSM), with co-transmission risk of both HIV and HCV. OBJECTIVES. Given few local data, we sought to better understand HCV characteristics and prevalence in two groups of HIV-infected men. METHODS. HIV-positive men in the greater Cape Town metropolitan area were recruited. Sexual orientation was self-identified and demographic and other personal data were obtained via a confidential questionnaire. Participants were screened for HCV after a blood draw. Those with positive HCV tests had further HCV RNA confirmation. Risk factors associated with HCV seropositivity were determined. RESULTS. Five hundred HIV-positive men were recruited, 285 (57.0%) MSM and 215 (43.0%) non-MSM, median age 36 years (interquartile range (IQR) 20 - 64) and 37 years (IQR 21 - 56), respectively (p=NS). Overall, 3.4% (n=17) screened HCV-positive, 5.6% MSM (n=16) and 0.5% non-MSM (n=1); 82.4% were viraemic for HCV RNA. In respect of genotype distribution, 50.0% were infected with genotype 1a, 14.3% with genotype 4 and 35.7% with genotype 2. In terms of risk, MSM were more likely to have used drugs (54.4% v. 30.2%; p<0.001) and to have used all five modes of drug administration (13.0% MSM v. 0.5% non-MSM for injected drugs, 36.1% v. 2.3% for inhaled, 10.0% v. 0% for rectal, 48.1% v. 28.8% for smoked and 27.4% v. 2.3% for oral). More MSM than non-MSM (46.3% v. 16.7%) reported having sex while using recreational drugs, and similarly more MSM (21.4% v. 14%) reported having sex with a sex worker (SW). Risk factors for HCV seropositivity included drug use history (odds ratio (OR) 6.28, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.78 - 22.12; p=0.004) and in MSM, sex with an SW (OR 5.5, 95% CI 2.06 - 14.68; p=0.001) or use of recreational drugs with sex (OR 6.88, 95% CI 2.21 - 21.44; p=0.001). CONCLUSIONS. HCV prevalence in HIV-positive MSM is higher than previously appreciated or documented in SA. Risk factors include injection drug use, use of recreational drugs with sex, and sex with SWs. Targeted interventions are required to address this emerging challenge to achieve the viral hepatitis elimination ideal by 2030.

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