Worldwide Study Reveals HIV, Hepatitis C Coinfection Rate

March 8, 2016
Caitlyn Fitzpatrick

In the first global study of its kind, researchers put a number on the amount of people who are infected with both the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C.

In the first global study of its kind, researchers put a number on the amount of people who are infected with both the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has long red-flagged patients with HIV as a high-risk group for hepatitis C coinfection. Now, researchers from the University of Bristol and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine conducted a global analysis to uncover the prominence of the coinfection rate.

Nearly 2.3 million people with HIV are also infected with hepatitis C worldwide, according to a report published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. More than half of those individuals, approximately 1.3 million, are people who inject drugs (PWID).

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The team examined 783 studies from all over the world to determine the extent of the coinfection global health problem. The databases covered coinfection rates from January 2002 to January 2015, and each study had at least 50 participants. The findings revealed that 2% to 4% of the general population had both HIV and hepatitis C.

“The study shows that not only are people with HIV at much higher risk of hepatitis C infection, groups such as people who inject drugs have extremely high prevalence of hepatitis C infection — over 80%,” One of the authors Philippa Easterbrook, MD, from the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Hepatitis Programme, said in a news release. Notably, these estimates are based off of the countries where data was available — about 45% worldwide.

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In addition to PWID, men who have sex with men are also more likely to experience coinfection. This epidemic is especially serious in Eastern Europe and several central Asian countries.

What can be done to combat this deadly trend? This is not an isolated issue, and global participation through better programming is needed to reverse the coinfection rate.

“Improvement in the surveillance of hepatitis C and HIV is imperative to help define the epidemiology of coinfection and inform appropriate policies for testing, prevention, care, and treatment to those in need,” continued lead author Lucy Platt, PhD, senior lecturer from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

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