Pumping iron, risking infection? Exposure to hepatitis C, hepatitis B and HIV among anabolic-androgenic steroid injectors in Victoria, Australia

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2002 Feb 1;65(3):303-8. doi: 10.1016/s0376-8716(01)00174-0.


Aims: To measure exposure to the hepatitis C and B viruses and HIV among Victorian steroid injectors and evaluate associations between exposure and risk behaviour, and report other characteristics of the study group.

Design: Seroprevalence study using a convenience sample.

Setting: Victoria, Australia.

Participants: Current injectors of illicit anabolic steroids.

Measurements: Prevalences of exposure to HIV and the hepatitis B and C viruses; associations of characteristics and behaviours with exposure; descriptive statistics for the sample.

Findings: Six of 63 blood samples (9.5%) contained hepatitis C virus antibodies; 12.0% tested positive for hepatitis B core antibody; none contained anti-HIV. Hepatitis C virus exposure was associated with heroin injection, imprisonment, sharing needles to inject other drugs, number of tattoos, and hepatitis B virus exposure. No significant differences existed in the steroid-related risk behaviour of exposed and non-exposed individuals. Hepatitis B virus exposure was associated only with hepatitis C virus exposure, past imprisonment and age of first injection.

Conclusions: Exposure to the hepatitis B and C viruses was detected; hepatitis C virus exposure was at much lower prevalence than normally found among other drug injectors. Factors other than steroid injecting were associated with exposure. Nonetheless, the hepatitis C-exposed reported many steroid-related and other risk behaviours which could spread the virus. Steroid injectors should not be neglected in blood-borne virus prevention efforts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anabolic Agents*
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Doping in Sports* / psychology
  • Female
  • HIV Seropositivity / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis B / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis B / etiology
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis C / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk-Taking
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / complications*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology
  • Weight Lifting* / psychology


  • Anabolic Agents