Objective: This study was conducted to assess the accuracy of self-reported hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibody (anti-HCV) serostatus in injection drug users (IDUs), and examine whether self-reported anti-HCV serostatus was associated with recent injection risk behavior.
Methods: In five U.S. cities (Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Seattle), 3,004 IDUs from 15 to 30 years old were recruited for a baseline interview to determine eligibility for a randomized controlled trial of a behavioral intervention. HIV and HCV antibody testing were performed, and subject data (e.g., demographics, drug and sexual risk behavior, and history of HIV and HCV testing) were collected via audio computer-administered self-interview. Risk behavior during the previous three months was compared to self-reported anti-HCV serostatus.
Results: Anti-HCV prevalence in this sample of young IDUs was 34.1%. Seventy-two percent of anti-HCV-positive and 46% of anti-HCV-negative IDUs in this sample were not aware of their HCV serostatus. Drug treatment or needle exchange use was associated with increased awareness of HCV serostatus. Anti-HCV-negative IDUs who knew their serostatus were less likely than those unaware of their status to inject with a syringe used by another IDU or to share cottons to filter drug solutions. Knowledge of one's positive anti-HCV status was not associated with safer injection practices.
Conclusions: Few anti-HCV-positive IDUs in this study were aware of their serostatus. Expanded availability of HCV screening with high quality counseling is clearly needed for this population to promote the health of chronically HCV-infected IDUs and to decrease risk among injectors susceptible to acquiring or transmitting HCV.