Michigan State University (MSU) researchers report the need for stronger protections -- vaccination for hepatitis B and additional blood transfusion safeguards -- to prevent hepatitis coinfection for HIV-infected people. Based on a review of all registered Michigan HIV cases, lead researcher Zahid Butt stated that approximately four percent of HIV-infected people were coinfected with hepatitis. Butt asserted that the prevalence of HIV and hepatitis B and C coinfection in Michigan was higher than expected, given the existing blood screening protocols.

According to CDC, HIV infection "more than triples" the risk of death from liver disease and liver failure for people with hepatitis C. Hepatitis B and C attack the liver; untreated hepatitis infections can be fatal.

In contrast to earlier studies that indicated African-American males have higher coinfection rates, the MSU study found males who marked their race as "other" had the highest coinfection rates. Butt theorized the higher rates among this group were due to insufficient safeguards during blood transfusions and lack of hepatitis B vaccination. He suggested the high coinfection cohort might have originated in countries that do not require childhood immunization for hepatitis B. Distrust of the healthcare system could also discourage people from hepatitis B immunization.

To prevent future hepatitis infections among HIV-infected persons, Butt recommended "proper screening" of blood products used for transfusions and hepatitis vaccination for all HIV-infected individuals.

The full report, "Hepatitis B and C Co-infection in HIV/AIDS Population in the State of Michigan," was published online March 12, 2013, in the journal Epidemiology and Infection.