An analysis of five clinics in London and Brighton has revealed that new cases of hepatitis C amongst HIV positive men in the areas have fallen by nearly 70% in recent years.
The research, conducted by Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, found that 378 cases were diagnosed between July 2013 – June 2018, and that new infections peaked at 14 per 1000 people studied in 2015, falling to four per 1000 by 2018.
The bodies believe that regular hepatitis C screening and improved access to new treatments have contributed to greatly reducing the transmission of the infection, and have stated that if the progress can be maintained, London will be on track to achieve the targets set out by the British HIV Association to eliminate hepatitis C completely in people with HIV by 2021.
“Hepatitis C can sometimes cause serious liver disease and remains a major cause of global mortality” reminds Dr Lucy Garvey, consultant in HIV/GU Medicine at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and lead author of the study.
She continued, “Around 2.3 million individuals worldwide are co-infected with HIV and hepatitis C and they are at greater risk of their disease progressing compared to those without HIV infection. However, with the new hepatitis C treatments, it is possible to cure the disease completely.
“Our study has shown how in London and Brighton, regular screening and greater access to these new treatments have resulted in a significant fall in new cases of hepatitis C and transmission of the infection.”
Hepatitis C is a virus that infects and damages the liver. It is transmitted through blood-to-blood contact or injecting drugs, and if left untreated it can lead to scarring of the liver, known as cirrhosis, and liver cancer. People with HIV who get hepatitis C are more at risk of the disease progressing and they have a higher risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer.