HIV and hepatitis C co-infections
Some two million people around the world are infected with both HIV and the hepatitis C virus (HCV), according to a new report. Figures from the University of Bristol and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK reveal that 2.3 million individuals are living with both diseases, with female carriers running the risk of passing the infections on to their offspring. Statistics show that approximately 37 million worldwide have been diagnosed with HIV, while around 115 million have hepatitis C, but this new study represents the first time that co-infection of the two has been explored. Researchers analysed 783 global studies on HIV and HCV in order to reach informed estimates about how many people around the world have received a double diagnosis. They also discovered that HIV patients are approximately six times more likely to be diagnosed with hepatitis C as well when compared to their HIV-free counterparts. Among those who inject drugs, this risk increases to 80 per cent. However, these conclusions only relate to 45 per cent of global countries, meaning further analysis will be required to provide a more accurate global overview. Professor Peter Vickerman of the University of Bristol commented: "This study shows how important injecting drug use is in driving the epidemic of HCV in people with HIV infection, especially in eastern European and central Asian countries. "It also shows the need to scale up prevention interventions, such as needle and syringe programmes and opioid substitution therapy, as well as access to HIV and HCV treatment, to reduce morbidity and new infections." This research was sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), as part of its Global Hepatitis Programme. WHO is planning to use the findings to review its guidelines surrounding co-infection screenings and to develop new antiretroviral therapies to fight both diseases. It also hopes to use the research results to inform international strategies for the screening and management of HCV in particular.