Hepatitis C Virus Awareness Among Men Who Have Sex With Men in Southwest Switzerland

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BackgroundIn Switzerland, the incidence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM) rose 18-fold between 1998 and 2011. We aimed to evaluate transmission risk factors, awareness, and seroprevalence of HCV among MSM in southwest Switzerland.MethodsFrom 1st June 2011 to 31st August 2012, trained health care professionals invited individuals attending (1) MSM screening clinics and (2) indoor and outdoor meeting areas to complete an anonymous questionnaire. Consenting participants were rapid tested for HCV (OraQuick HCV Rapid Antibody Test).ResultsOf 918 MSM approached, 654 agreed to participate, most of whom (536, 82%) were enrolled via MSM screening clinics. Of 654 participants, 21 (3.2%) disclosed being HIV positive; 140 (21%) had unknown HIV status. In the preceding 12 months, 357 (55%) of 654 participants reported unprotected anal intercourse (UAI) and 321 (49%) of 654 participants reported UAI with partners of different/unknown HIV status. Not HIV serosorting was reported more frequently among HIV-positive individuals (76%, P < 0.001). Three hundred two participants (46%) were aware of HCV, awareness being higher among clinic than meeting area participants (49% vs. 33%, P = 0.04). One individual (of 654; 0.2%), with a negative HIV test result 18 months previously was newly diagnosed as being HCV positive on rapid testing.ConclusionsIn this sample of predominantly HIV-negative MSM, half the participants were aware of HCV and HCV seroprevalence was low. However, high rates of UAI and of UAI without HIV serosorting were reported. Given the increasing incidence of HCV among HIV-positive men, we propose that HCV counseling should be offered to MSM regardless of HIV status, with testing offered to those at high risk.

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