July 18, 2012
New Orleans and Baton Rouge are among the 10 US cities that have the highest HIV rates, according to recent surveillance reports. In 2006, 7 percent of Louisiana residents with hepatitis C virus were co-infected with HIV. However, actual co-infection rates are probably higher since HCV is usually underreported, said Dielda Robertson, epidemiologist and adult viral hepatitis prevention coordinator at the state Office of Public Health.
About 25 percent of people with HIV in the United States also have HCV, according to CDC.
The combination is more difficult to treat than other co-infections, said Dr. Nathan Shores, assistant professor of clinical medicine and associate medical director of liver transplants at Tulane Medical Center. Medications for HCV are more toxic than for other types of hepatitis, and HCV-related liver transplants are generally not as successful as hepatitis B-related transplants.
The co-infection also is difficult to treat due to a shortage of hepatologists, Shores said. There are just five certified hepatologists in Louisiana and about 200 in the nation. Many HIV clinics do not test for HCV, and screening is often based on risk.
People taking HIV therapy who are at risk for HCV should get tested as early as possible, Shores said. Early testing and treatment can help people avoid medication toxicity problems associated with treating late-stage disease, he said.
Times-Picayune (New Orleans)
07.14.2012; Maki Somosot
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