Integrated hepatitis C virus treatment: addressing comorbid substance use disorders and HIV infection

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Objectives:To examine hepatitis C virus (HCV) and HIV testing patterns within the Northwest Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN 20).Methods:Using a comprehensive VISN 20 database, we retrospectively reviewed medical records of 293 445 veterans.Results:32.8% of patients were tested for HCV, 5.5% were tested for HIV, and 4.3% were co-tested. Of those tested, 12.3% were HCV positive, 5.4% were HIV positive, and 1.6% were co-infected. 79.1% of HIV-positive patients were tested for HCV, 29.2% of whom tested positive. 34.8% of HCV-positive patients were tested for HIV, 4.9% of whom tested positive. Of those tested, HCV-positive patients were significantly more likely than HCV-negative patients to test positive for HIV; HIV-positive patients were no more likely to test positive for HCV than HIV-negative patients. HIV-positive patients with substance use disorders (SUD) were significantly more likely to test HCV positive than those without. Within the total sample, veterans with SUD were significantly more likely to be tested for both diseases and to test positive for HCV but not HIV. After controlling for other categories of SUD, veterans with a history of cocaine abuse compared with those without were at an increased risk of HIV infection and co-infection.Conclusion:79.1% of HIV-positive but only 34.8% of HCV-positive veterans were co-tested, suggesting barriers to HIV testing may exist in VISN 20. Results also indicate that HCV-positive patients are at increased risk for HIV infection and that HIV-positive patients with SUD are at increased risk of HCV infection; routine co-testing for these patients is therefore warranted. Given significant co-infection rates, HCV and HIV screening and testing should be increasingly integrated. Increased infection rates among patients with SUD also warrant integration of HCV and HIV screening and testing into mental health and addiction programmes.

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