Study: HIV-positive gay men are not at heightened risk for hepatitis C
A study in the May 15 edition of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases shows that gay HIV-positive men are not a high risk group for hepatitis C infection, contradicting earlier studies suggesting HCV is commonly transmitted sexually among HIV-positive men who have sex with men. The new study involved over 2,700 HIV-positive men in treatment trials in several U.S. cities between 1998 and 2001. A total of 16.6% of the study subjects were found to also be infected with HCV, but an analysis of risk factors showed that a history of sex with other men was not associated with coinfection. The most common risk factors were injection drug use and not taking anti-HIV medications, which the researchers say was common among high-risk individuals who tended to avoid any medical care and typically did not use any risk-reduction techniques. Those over age 50, as well as African-Americans and Latinos, also were shown to be at a higher risk for hepatitis infection. Surprisingly, gay injection drug users were shown to have a lower HIV-HCV coinfection rate than heterosexual users. The researchers theorize that gay injection drug users are more likely to avoid sharing needles, to not trade sex for drugs, and to avoid shooting galleries, all of which have been linked to higher HIV risk, than heterosexual drug users. A follow-up study is planned.