Brown University, Providence, RI, USA.
This study sought to assess the rate of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and associated risk factors in young adults 18-28 years of age who were incarcerated in the Rhode Island Department of Corrections. The majority of participants reported injection drug use and engaged in high-risk behaviors such as needle sharing. Despite having these risk factors and believing themselves to be at risk, the majority of youths reported no prior HCV testing. Correctional facilities present a unique opportunity to detect HCV infection and provide risk reduction education to young adults, the population with the highest rates of new infections in the US. Seventy-two incarcerated individuals with a history of drug use were approached to participate in the study; 68 completed the screening and interview. The rate of HCV infection among adults <30 years of age and incarcerated at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections in 2011 was high (24 %). In 1998, the rate of HCV among inmates <30 years of age at the same facility was only 11.4 %. These data follow the same increase in HCV infection rates among young adults observed in non-incarcerated young adults across the nation. HCV is the leading cause of liver failure and hepatocellular carcinoma in the US. Despite a decline and leveling in HCV incidence nationwide, alarming increases in HCV rates among adolescents and young adults have been reported during the period between the years 1992 and 2005. This disquieting epidemic is attributable to injection drug use amongst young adults.