Improving Screening Methods for Hepatitis C Among People Who Inject Drugs: Findings from the HepTLC Initiative, 2012-2014
Objective. People who inject drugs (PWID) are at increased risk for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. We examined HCV testing outcomes among PWID through CDC's Hepatitis Testing and Linkage to Care initiative, which promoted viral hepatitis B and hepatitis C screening, posttest counseling, and linkage to care at 34 U.S. sites during 2012-2014. Ten grantees in nine geographically diverse cities conducted HCV testing among PWID.
Methods. Among those testing positive for HCV antibody (anti-HCV), we calculated the proportion who were offered a confirmatory HCV ribonucleic acid (RNA) test, positively diagnosed, and referred to a specialist for care. We stratified anti-HCV-positive people who completed each step by same-day testing (i.e., an HCV RNA test administered on the same date as an anti-HCV test) vs. person not receiving same-day testing to evaluate whether the need for follow-up testing affected diagnosis of chronic infection and linkage to care.
Results. A total of 15,274 people received an anti-HCV test at 84 testing sites targeting PWID. Of those, 11,159 (73%) reported having injected drugs in their lifetime, 7,789 (51%) reported injecting drugs in the past 12 months, and 3,495 (23%) tested anti-HCV positive. A total of 1,630 people received testing for HCV RNA, of whom 1,244 (76%) were HCV RNA positive. When not receiving both tests on the same day, 601 of 2,465 (24%) anti-HCV-positive people received an HCV RNA test.
Conclusion. Strategies to diagnose PWID for HCV infection are needed to reduce associated morbidity and mortality. Agencies can substantially increase the number of PWID who are diagnosed and informed of their HCV infection by administering both anti-HCV and HCV RNA tests during a single testing event.