A recent study from the University of Bristol and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that approximately 2.3 million people around the world have co-infections of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C (HCV).
Before the study, scientists knew little about the full reach of HIV/HCV co-infections. This is the first worldwide study that has been conducted on the topic.
Out of the 2.3 million people with co-infections, more than half (1.3 million) qualify as people who inject drugs.
"Despite a systematic search of published and unpublished literature, estimates were identified in only 45 percent of countries and the study quality was variable,” Dr Lucy Platt, lead author and senior lecturer from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said. “Improvement in the surveillance of HCV and HIV is imperative to help define the epidemiology of co-infection and inform appropriate policies for testing, prevention, care and treatment to those in need. This is especially the case in countries with growing populations of (people who inject drugs) and also in sub-Saharan Africa where the burden of co-infection is large due to high burden of HIV.
In addition, the study discovered that people with HIV infections are approximately 6 times more likely to have HCV infections than people who do not have HIV infections.
"The study shows that not only are people with HIV at much higher risk of HCV infection, groups such as people who inject drugs have extremely high prevalence of HCV infection -- over 80 percent,” Dr. Philippa Easterbrook, from WHO's Global Hepatitis Programme, said. “There is a need to scale-up routine testing to diagnose HCV infection in HIV programs worldwide, especially among high-risk groups, as the first step toward accessing the new, highly curative HCV treatments."
With this information, the scientists are promoting a new, integrated service for HIV/HCV co-infections.