Viral Hepatitis and Other Infectious Diseases in a Homeless Population

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GoalsTo determine the prevalence of four common infectious diseases—hepatitis B, hepatitis C, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and tuberculosis—as well as co-infection rates and risk factors in a homeless population.BackgroundThe prevalence of infectious diseases, especially viral hepatitis, among the homeless population is largely unknown.StudyThis study consists of a retrospective analysis of the history and laboratory data collected from all homeless veterans admitted to a Veterans Administration (VA) domiciliary from May 1995 to March 2000.ResultsOf the homeless veterans admitted to a VA domiciliary program, 597 of 829 were screened for markers of all four infectious diseases. The overall prevalence of anti–hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibody, and positive result for purified protein derivative (PPD), anti-HIV antibody, and hepatitis B surface antigen (HbsAg) were 41.7%, 20.6%, 1.84% and 1.17%, respectively. At least one of the four markers was positive in 52.6% and more than one in 12%. Co-infection with HCV occurred commonly in veterans who were positive for anti-HIV (72.7%) and HBsAg (57.1%). Four self-reported major risk factors (intravenous drug use, alcohol abuse, previous imprisonment, and prior stay in a shelter) were evaluated. Multivariate analysis indicates that intravenous drug use and anti-HBs reactivity are independent risk factors for HCV infection, HCV infection for anti–hepatitis B surface antibody reactivity, and older age for PPD positivity.ConclusionsChronic hepatitis C and co-infections are common among the homeless population. Patients infected with HIV and hepatitis B virus frequently are co-infected with HCV. Infections frequently are associated with certain identifiable risk factors.

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