High prevalence of HCV in a cohort of injectors on methadone substitution treatment

J Clin Virol. 2008 Apr;41(4):297-300. doi: 10.1016/j.jcv.2007.09.013. Epub 2008 Jan 10.


Background: In Hong Kong, methadone treatment is widely accessible. Injecting drug users (IDU) have a relatively low risk behavioural profile and low HIV prevalence (0.3%). The corresponding Hepatitis C (HCV) level, however, is unclear.

Objectives: To determine the HCV prevalence in IDU in Hong Kong and to identify any associated factors.

Study design: A community-based HCV prevalence study of IDU was conducted in methadone clinics. Demographics and drug use pattern were collected through a questionnaire survey and blood samples were obtained for HCV serological tests.

Results: Data of 567 IDU were analyzed. Most were male (84%) and ethnic Chinese (98%). The median age was 49 years and median injection duration 17 years. Two-thirds (62%) admitted ever sharing injecting equipments. Most (76%) reported having injection drug use in the preceding 3 months, and 44% abused midazolam/triazolam in addition to heroin. Prevalence of HCV antibodies was 85% (95% confidence interval 82.5-88.3%). Injection duration, recent injection, ever sharing injecting equipments and concomitant use of other drugs were independent factors associated with HCV infection.

Conclusions: HCV prevalence is high in IDU despite a low HIV prevalence and widely available substitution treatment, which has probably slowed but not prevented the HCV epidemic in IDU in Hong Kong.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies / blood
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Methadone / therapeutic use*
  • Middle Aged
  • Needle Sharing
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors


  • Hepatitis C Antibodies
  • Methadone