Objectives: Depression is common in persons with HIV infection and with alcohol problems, and it has important prognostic implications. Neurocognitive dysfunction has been reported with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. We hypothesized that HCV infection is associated with more depressive symptoms in HIV-infected persons with a history of alcohol problems.
Methods: We performed a cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from a prospective cohort study of 391 HIV-infected subjects with a history of alcohol problems, of whom 59% were HCV antibody (Ab) positive and 49% were HCV RNA-positive. We assessed depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression [CES-D]) and past month alcohol consumption. In the primary analysis, we evaluated whether there were more depressive symptoms in HCV Ab-positive and RNA-positive subjects in unadjusted analyses and adjusting for alcohol consumption, gender, age, race, CD4 count, homelessness, drug dependence, and medical comorbidity.
Results: Mean CES-D scores were higher in subjects who were HCV Ab-positive compared with those who were HCV Ab-negative (24.3 vs 19.0; p < 0.001). In adjusted analyses, the difference in CES-D scores between HCV Ab-positive and Ab-negative subjects persisted (24.0 vs 19.0; p < 0.001). Unadjusted mean CES-D scores were also significantly higher in HCV RNA-positive subjects compared with those who were RNA-negative, and the difference remained significant (24.6 vs 19.3; p < 0.001) in adjusted analyses.
Conclusions: HCV/HIV coinfected persons with a history of alcohol problems have more depressive symptoms than those without HCV, and this association is unexplained by a variety of population characteristics. These data suggest that HCV may have a direct effect on neuropsychiatric function.