Variation in the Viral Hepatitis and HIV Policies and Practices of Methadone Maintenance Programs

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Patients prescribed methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) demonstrate elevated prevalence of hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus, and HIV. Government agencies recommend testing for these infections in MMT programs, but uptake is limited.


We audited infection-related policies and practices of all 14 MMT programs in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 2015. Results were tabulated and compared with the results from a 2010 audit of 10 of 12 MMT programs. The audit focused on which patients are tested, timing and frequency, specific tests ordered, vaccination, and communication of test results.


Written policies were nonspecific, offering little guidance on appropriate testing. The principal change in policy between 2010 and 2015 involved adding clearer guidance for communication of results to patients. In 2010 and 2015, all MMT programs tested new patients for hepatitis C virus antibodies, although retesting of existing patients varied. HBV testing increased from 2010 to 2015, though it was not uniform, with 5 programs testing for HBV surface antibodies and 10 programs testing for HBV surface antigens. Six programs assessed hepatitis vaccination status, but only 1 administered vaccines. In 2010, city-sponsored HIV antibody testing was available at all MMT programs. Without this program in 2015, few MMT programs conducted HIV testing.


Despite limited hepatitis and HIV screening in MMT programs nationally, this study shows that testing can be incorporated into routine procedures. MMT programs are positioned to play an integral role in the identification of patients with chronic infections, but additional guidance and resources are required to maximize their impact.

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