Sector News

  1. Injecting Risk Behaviours after Hepatitis C Virus Treatment in Australia

    Background

    Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection prevalence is high among people who inject drugs (PWID) and is a major cause of morbidity and mortality among this population. Due to concerns that HCV treatment may increase injecting risk behaviours among people who inject drugs (PWID) the authors compared recent (past month) injecting risk behaviours between PWID who received and did not receive HCV treatment.

    Findings

    • Of the 124 Australian participants with a history of injection drug use, 69% were male with 68% treated for HCV infection.
    • HCV treatment was not associated with an increase in recent injection drug use (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 1.06, 95% CI 0.93, 1.21). This is consistent with previous study findings.
    • HCV treatment was not associated with recent used needle and syringe borrowing (aOR 0.99, 95% CI 0.89, 1.08).
    • Treatment was associated with a decrease in recent ancillary injecting equipment sharing (aOR 0.85, 95% CI 0.74, 0.99). This is important given that sharing of equipment contributes to HCV transmission.
    • Although a small sample, the 24 participants who remained in follow-up (24 weeks) showed a significant decrease in injecting equipment sharing during follow-up. This is at least interesting to note because the side effects of interferon-based therapy mimic opioid withdrawal, which is a concern for some physicians (they worry that treatment might lead to relapse or an increase in drug use).

    Conclusion

    Hepatitis C virus assessment and treatment for people who inject drugs should be enhanced due to its effectiveness as it does not lead to increases in injection risk behaviours and has already been shown to be safe and effective for PWID populations.

    Alavi, M.,  Spelman, T.,  & Matthews, G.V. (2015). Injecting risk behaviours following treatment for hepatitis C virus infection among people who inject drugs: The Australian Trial in Acute Hepatitis C. International Journal of Drug Policy. Vol. 26. Issue 10, pp. 976-983.