Direct acting antivirals are expected to drastically reduce the burden of hepatitis C virus (HCV) in people living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). However, rates of HCV testing, re-testing and incident infection in this group remain uncertain in Australia. We assessed trends in HCV testing, re-testing and incident infection among HIV-positive individuals, and evaluated factors associated with HCV re-testing and incident infection.
The study population consisted of HIV-positive individuals who visited a sexual health service involved in the Australian Collaboration for Coordinated Enhanced Sentinel Surveillance (ACCESS) between 2007 and 2015. Poisson regression was used to assess trends and to evaluate factors associated with HCV re-testing and incident HCV infection.
There were 9227 HIV-positive individuals included in our testing rate analysis. Of 3799 HIV-positive/HCV-negative people that attended an ACCESS sexual health service more than once, 2079 (54.7%) were re-tested for HCV and were therefore eligible for our incidence analysis. The rate of HCV testing increased from 17.1 to 51.4 tests per 100 patient years between 2007 and 2015 (p for trend <0.01). Over the same period, HCV re-testing rates increased from 23.9 to 79.7 tests per 100 person years (p for trend <0.01). A clear increase in testing and re-testing began after 2011. Patients who identified as men who have sex with men and those with a history of injecting drug use experienced high rates of HCV re-testing over the course of the study period. Among those who re-tested, 157 incident HCV infections occurred at a rate of 2.5 events per 100 person years. Between 2007 and 2009, 2010-2011, 2012-2013 and 2014-2015, rates of incident HCV were 0.8, 1.5, 3.9 and 2.7 events per 100 person years, respectively (p for trend <0.01). Incident HCV was strongly associated with a history of injecting drug use.
High rates of HCV testing and re-testing among HIV-positive individuals in Australia will assist strategies to achieve HCV elimination through rapid treatment scale up. Continued monitoring of HCV incidence in this population is essential for guiding both HCV prevention and treatment strategies.