Dual Sexual and Drug-related Predictors of Hepatitis C Incidence among Sex Workers in a Canadian Setting: Gaps and Opportunities for Scale-up of Hepatitis C Virus Prevention, Treatment, and Care

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Goldenberg, S. M., Montaner, J., Braschel, M., Socias, E., Guillemi, S., & Shannon, K. (2017). Dual sexual and drug-related predictors of hepatitis C incidence among sex workers in a Canadian setting: gaps and opportunities for scale-up of hepatitis C virus prevention, treatment, and care. International journal of infectious diseases : IJID : official publication of the International Society for Infectious Diseases, 55, 31–37. DOI: 10.1016/j.ijid.2016.12.019.

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Hepatitis C
Sexually transmitted infections
Sex work

Background  Hepatitis C virus (HCV) represents a significant cause of morbidity and mortality globally. While sex workers may face elevated HCV risks through both drug and sexual pathways, incidence data among sex workers are severely lacking. HCV incidence and predictors of HCV seroconversion among women sex workers in Vancouver, BC were characterized in this study.

Methods  Questionnaire and serological data were drawn from a community-based cohort of women sex workers (2010–2014). Kaplan–Meier methods and Cox regression were used to model HCV incidence and predictors of time to HCV seroconversion.

Results  Among 759 sex workers, HCV prevalence was 42.7%. Among 292 baseline-seronegative sex workers, HCV incidence density was 3.84/100 person-years (PY), with higher rates among women using injection drugs (23.30/100 PY) and non-injection crack (6.27/100 PY), and those living with HIV (13.27/100 PY) or acute sexually transmitted infections (STIs) (5.10/100 PY). In Cox analyses adjusted for injection drug use, age (hazard ratio (HR) 0.94, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.86–1.01), acute STI (HR 2.49, 95% CI 1.02–6.06), and non-injection crack use (HR 2.71, 95% CI 1.18–6.25) predicted time to HCV seroconversion.

Discussion  While HCV incidence was highest among women who inject drugs, STIs and the use of non-injection stimulants appear to be pathways to HCV infection, suggesting potential dual sexual/drug transmission. Integrated HCV services within sexual health and HIV/STI programs are recommended.

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