Program Cut Hepatitis C Transmission Rate
to a report presented to the American Association for the
Study of Liver Disease, injection drug users who began
injecting drugs after the 1993 legalization of a safe needle
program in San Francisco had a much lower risk of contracting
hepatitis C virus (Hepatitis C Virus) than those who started earlier.
Before any programs were in place, most drug users became
infected with Hepatitis C Virus within a year of injecting drugs. Now there
is a delay in primary infections of 5 to 10 years, providing
time for substance abuse intervention, said Dr. Brian R. Edlin,
director of the Urban Health Study at the University of
California, San Francisco and author of the report.
Of the 969 study participants from neighborhoods in San
Francisco, Oakland and Richmond, 73 percent tested positive
for Hepatitis C Virus antibodies. However, controlling for age, duration of
drug use and number of injections per day, the people who used
needle exchange programs as their main source of needles were
half as likely to become infected with Hepatitis C Virus. In San Francisco,
Hepatitis C Virus antibody prevalence fell from 89 percent in people who
started injecting drugs between 1977 and 1985 to 76 percent in
drug users who started between 1986 and 1988-after HIV
outreach programs began. It fell to 59 percent in users who
started between 1994 and 1998-when large-scale needle exchange
programs were put into effect.
According to Miriam Alter, PhD, a co-moderator at the
conference and chief of hepatitis epidemiology at the CDC, the
next step for prevention programs is addressing practices such
as sharing cookers, filters or rinse water.
Internal Medicine News (03.15.01) Vol 34; No 6; P 31; Jennifer
M Wang; Courtesy of the CDC National Center for HIV, STD and