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Reuters Health Information (2004-05-21): Veterans at high risk for HIV-HCV co-infection


Veterans at high risk for HIV-HCV co-infection

Last Updated: 2004-05-21 11:36:05 -0400 (Reuters Health)

NEW ORLEANS (Reuters Health) - Risk factors for HIV infection are common among US military veterans who are also infected with hepatitis C virus, according to a new study. But many have not been tested for HIV, suggesting that they may be a source of HIV transmission.

The National Institutes of Health HCV Consensus Conference has recommended that HIV testing be only offered to HCV-infected patients who are deemed to be at high risk, Dr. Edmund J. Bini told Digestive Disease Week conference attendees here.

The problem with this strategy is that those who are unknowingly infected with HIV are the primary source of disease spread in the U.S., he said.

Dr. Bini, at New York University School of Medicine, and members of the VA HCV-001 Research Group prospectively gathered information from more than 4000 veterans with HCV throughout the U.S. regarding risk factors and their history of HIV testing.

More than half had a history of injection drug use or sex with a prostitute, and other risk factors were common as well.

The investigators found that 15% overall had never been tested, and 6.7% did not know if they had been. Among those tested, 8.4% were positive.

Approximately three quarters of those not tested had one or more HIV risk factors.

"All veterans with HCV should be tested for HIV, to detect it early and to prevent transmission," Dr. Edmund J. Bini concluded.

He also recommended that public health programs improve HIV awareness among patients with HCV who are at risk of co-infection.

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