Disparities in risk perception and low harm reduction services awareness, access, and utilization among young people with newly reported hepatitis C infections in California, 2018

Alison R. Ohringer, David P. Serota, Rachel L. McLean, Lauren J. Stockman, James P. Watt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Newly reported hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections in California increased 50% among people 15–29 years of age between 2014 and 2016. National estimates suggest this increase was due to the opioid epidemic and associated increases in injection drug use. However, most of California’s 61 local health jurisdictions (LHJs) do not routinely investigate newly reported HCV infections, so these individuals’ risk factors for infection are not well understood. We sought to describe the demographics, risk behaviors, and utilization of harm reduction services in California’s fastest-rising age group of people with newly reported hepatitis C infections to support targeted HCV prevention and treatment strategies. Methods: California Department of Public Health invited LHJs to participate in enhanced surveillance if they met criteria indicating heightened population risk for HCV infection among people ages 15–29. From June–December 2018, eight LHJs contacted newly reported HCV cases by phone using a structured questionnaire. Results: Among 472 total HCV cases who met the inclusion criteria, 114 (24%) completed an interview. Twenty-seven percent of respondents (n = 31) had ever been incarcerated, of whom 29% received a tattoo/piercing and 39% injected drugs while incarcerated. Among people who injected drugs (PWID)—36% (n = 41) of all respondents—68% shared injection equipment and many lacked access to harm reduction services: 37% knew of or ever used a needle exchange and 44% ever needed naloxone during an overdose but did not have it. Heroin was the most frequently reported injected drug (n = 30), followed by methamphetamine (n = 18). Pre-diagnosis HCV risk perception varied significantly by PWID status and race/ethnicity: 76% of PWID vs. 8% of non-PWID (p < 0.001), and 44% of non-Hispanic White respondents vs. 22% of people of color (POC) respondents (p = 0.011), reported thinking they were at risk for HCV before diagnosis. Eighty-nine percent of all respondents reported having health insurance, although only two had taken HCV antiviral medications. Conclusions: Among young people with HCV, we found limited pre-diagnosis HCV risk perception and access to harm reduction services, with racial/ethnic disparities. Interventions to increase harm reduction services awareness, access, and utilization among young PWID, especially young PWID of color, may be warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1435
JournalBMC public health
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Epidemiology
  • Harm reduction
  • HCV
  • Hepatitis C
  • Incarceration
  • Injection drug use
  • Naloxone
  • Needle and syringe exchange
  • Risk
  • Screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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