Objectives: To describe point prevalence of HCV antibody and relevant risk behaviour among people who inject drugs and who attended selected needle and syringe programs throughout Australia in 1995, 1996 and 1997.
Design and setting: Repeated cross-sectional surveys of one week's duration were carried out in 21, 20 and 23 needle and syringe program sites throughout Australia in 1995, 1996 and 1997, respectively.
Participants: All clients attending participating sites during the designated survey week were asked to complete a self-administered questionnaire and provide a finger-prick blood sample for HCV antibody testing.
Main outcome measures: Prevalence of HCV antibody.
Results: Survey response was 41% (n = 979) in 1995, 51% (n = 1463) in 1996 and 48% (n = 1699) in 1997. HCV prevalence declined significantly from 63% in 1995 to 51% in 1996 and 50% in 1997 (P < 0.001). Among respondents who reported injecting for less than three years, prevalence declined from 22% in 1995 to 13% in 1996 and 1997 (P < 0.001). Reported use of needles and syringes after someone else in the previous month declined from 31% in 1995 and 28% in 1996 to 15% in 1997 (P < 0.001).
Conclusions: Despite an apparent decline in HCV prevalence, carriage rates of HCV antibody remain high.