Viral infections in short-term injection drug users: the prevalence of the hepatitis C, hepatitis B, human immunodeficiency, and human T-lymphotropic viruses

Am J Public Health. 1996 May;86(5):655-61. doi: 10.2105/ajph.86.5.655.


Objectives: The purpose of this study was to estimate the prevalence and correlates of four blood-borne viral infections among illicit drug injectors with up to 6 years of injecting experience.

Methods: We analyzed data from 716 volunteers recruited in 1988 and 1989. Test results for hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis B virus (HBV), human immunodeficiency virus, type 1 (HIV), and human T-lymphotropic virus types I and II (HTLV) were examined across six sequential cohorts defined by duration of drug injection.

Results: Overall, seroprevalence of HCV, HBV, HIV, and HTLV was 76.9%, 65.7%, 20.5% and 1.8%, respectively, and 64.7%, 49.8%, 13.9%, and 0.5%, respectively, among those who had injected for 1 year or less. Among the newest initiates, HCV and HBV were associated with injecting variables, and HIV was associated with sexual variables.

Conclusions: The high rates of HCV, HBV, and HIV infections among short-term injectors emphasizes the need to target both parenteral and sexual risk reduction interventions early. Renewed efforts at primary prevention of substance abuse are indicated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Baltimore / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Deltaretrovirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Deltaretrovirus Infections / etiology
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / etiology
  • HIV Seroprevalence
  • Hepatitis B / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis B / etiology
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis C / etiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / complications*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology
  • Time Factors
  • Virus Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Virus Diseases / etiology*