Prevalence of Hepatitis C in Swiss Men Who Have Sex With Men Similar to General Population

This article was reported by Healio.

Healio reported on a study showing that hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections are not more common in HIV-positive Swiss men who have sex with men (MSM) than in the general public. The researchers tested 840 MSM ages 17–79 from a gay health program.

The participants completed an anonymous questionnaire on sexual practices and other HCV risk factors such as injecting drug use, non-injecting cocaine or amphetamine use, tattoos, piercings, and blood transfusions, as well as HIV status and diagnosis of other sexually transmitted infections. They also reported their country of origin. The researchers screened participants' blood samples for HIV, syphilis, and HCV.

Nineteen participants reported a previous HIV diagnosis, 579 reported they were HIV-negative, 188 did not know their HIV status, and 54 did not reveal their status. Of the participants, seven tested positive for HCV antibodies and two for HCV core antigen and HCV-RNA. The latter two men were not from Switzerland -- one was from a country with higher than a 3.5-percent HCV incidence. Of the 821 MSM who were without an HIV diagnosis, serum prevalence of HCV was 0.37 percent and one man had replicating virus. Researchers discovered a modest link to positive HCV serostatus among persons who had tattoos.

The researchers concluded that promoting HCV testing for MSM who are not HIV-positive in Switzerland is not necessary, but trends in HCV among MSM should be monitored.

The full report, "Prevalence of Hepatitis C in a Swiss Sample of Men Who Have Sex with Men: Whom to Screen for HCV Infection?," was published online in the journal BMC Public Health (2014; doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-3).