-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, Feb. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Among injection drug users,
new cases of HIV infection have declined dramatically in the past
two decades, but the number of new infections from the hepatitis C
virus have dropped only a small amount, a new study reports.
The findings suggest that efforts -- such as needle exchange
programs and substance abuse treatment -- to prevent blood-borne
transmission of infectious diseases have been successful against
HIV but more needs to be done to reduce the transmission of
hepatitis C virus (HCV), according to the study's leader, Shruti H.
Mehta of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.
The researchers noted that HCV is nearly 10 times more
transmissible by sharing needles than HIV. Sharing a needle just
once can be enough to transmit HCV.
The study, which looked at infection rates among injection drug
users in Baltimore over a 20-year span, found dramatic decreases in
new HIV infections: from 5.5 cases per 100 person years in
1988-1989 to two per 100 in 1994-1995, and to zero cases in 1998
Reductions in new HCV infections were not as dramatic: from 22
cases per 100 person years in 1988-1989 to 17.2 per 100 in
1994-1995, to 17.9 in 1998 and to 7.8 in 2005-2008.
Overall, new cases of HCV appeared to decrease only among
younger injection drug users who had recently starting using the
drugs, the study found.
The results were released online Jan. 31 in advance of
publication in the March 1 print issue of the
Journal of Infectious Diseases.
The results suggest that "current prevention efforts delay but
do not prevent HCV at the population level and will need to be
further intensified to reduce risk of HCV infection to the level of
HIV," the researchers wrote.
They called for expansion of efforts on both the prevention and
the treatment fronts to reduce the reservoir of HCV-infected
injection drug users.
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about
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