Source Centre for Infections, Health Protection Agency, London, UK; Centre for Research on Drugs & Health Behaviour, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK.
Summary. Around 80% of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections in England are among injecting drug users (IDUs). The HCV Action Plan launched in 2004 includes targets to reduce HCV prevalence in recent initiates (those starting injecting in the preceding 3 years), and to increase HCV voluntary confidential testing (VCT).
The Action Plan's impact is examined using surveillance data from recent initiates participating in an annual survey of IDUs in contact with specialist services across England, 2000-2008. Participants provided an oral fluid sample (tested for anti-HCV) and completed a short questionnaire (including HCV VCT and result of last test). Overall, anti-HCV prevalence among the recent initiates was 18% (619/3463); in 2004, it was 20% (59/291), other than being lower in 2000 [11%, 73/672, adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 0.63 95%CI 0.42-0.93] there was no change over time. Prevalence increased with age; was higher among those ever imprisoned, using a needle exchange, and having a HCV VCT; and varied by region. Overall, 42% (1460) had ever had a HCV VCT; in 2004 uptake was 45% (130/291) having increased from 26% (175/672, AOR = 0.57 95%CI 0.42-0.77) in 2000, and it rose to 62% (197/320, AOR = 2.12 95%CI 1.50-2.99) in 2008. The proportion of anti-HCV-positive IDUs aware of their infection was higher in 2006-2008 than in earlier years.
The HCV Action Plan has probably helped increase recent initiates' uptake of HCV VCT and the proportion of those diagnosed with HCV infection. However, its impact on HCV transmission is unclear. There is a need to reinvigorate, and improve coverage of, interventions to prevent HCV transmission.