The findings are reported in the October 2011 issue of AIDS Patient Care and STDs.
"We demonstrate that even in a busy HIV clinic setting, it is possible to screen for and diagnose hepatitis C in its earliest stages, giving patients the best chance for HCV treatment success while providing an opportunity to educate patients about how to prevent transmitting the infection to others," Taylor says.
The Miriam study included 58 HIV-infected individuals. In addition to ALT blood tests, participants also completed risk screening questionnaires at each study visit, which included questions about sexual and drug-related risk behaviors and perceptions about their risk for acquiring HCV.
The study revealed that many at-risk HIV-infected individuals do not know they are at risk for HCV. More than half of the male participants who have sex with men reported that they do not believe that risk behaviors such as unprotected anal intercourse or certain drug practices put them at risk for HCV infection.
However, Taylor says that self-reported HCV risk and participation in several risk behaviors declined during the study. This could be explained by risk reduction counseling, which was provided at each clinic visit underreporting due to the stigma of some of these behaviors, or diminished memory of behaviors during substance use. However, reducing risk through proactive educational and counseling interventions merits further consideration.
According to Taylor, routine acute HCV screening efforts have important public health implications. "Hepatitis C is a common, potentially life-threatening and costly infection
|Contact: Jessica Collins Grimes|