A prospective study of hepatitis C incidence in Australian prisoners

Fabio Luciani, Neil A.rvin Bretaña, Suzy Teutsch, Janaki Amin, Libby Topp, Gregory J. Dore, Lisa Maher, Kate Dolan, Andrew R. Lloyd, HITS-p investigators

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

45 Citations (Scopus)


Aims To document the relationships between injecting drug use, imprisonment and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Design Prospective cohort study. Setting Multiple prisons in New South Wales, Australia. Participants HCV seronegative prisoners with a life-time history of injecting drug use (IDU) were enrolled and followed prospectively (n = 210) by interview and HCV antibody and RNA testing 6-12-monthly for up to 4 years when in prison. Measurements HCV incidence was calculated using the person-years method. Cox regression was used to identify predictors of incident infection using time-dependent covariates. Results Almost half the cohort reported IDU during follow-up (103 subjects; 49.1%) and 65 (31%) also reported sharing of the injecting apparatus. There were 38 HCV incident cases in 269.94 person-years (py) of follow-up with an estimated incidence of 14.08 per 100 py [confidence interval (CI) = 9.96-19.32]. Incident infection was associated independently with Indigenous background, injecting daily or more and injecting heroin. Three subjects were RNA-positive and antibody-negative at the incident time-point, indicating early infection, which provided a second incidence estimate of 9.4%. Analysis of continuously incarcerated subjects (n = 114) followed over 126.73 py, identified 13 new HCV infections (10.26 per 100 py, CI = 5.46-17.54), one of which was an early infection case. Bleach-cleansing of injecting equipment and opioid substitution treatment were not associated with a significant reduction in incidence. Conclusions In New South Wales, Australia, imprisonment is associated with high rates of hepatitis C virus transmission. More effective harm reduction interventions are needed to control HCV in prison settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1695-1706
Number of pages12
JournalAddiction (Abingdon, England)
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • hepatitis C virus
  • incarceration
  • incidence
  • injecting drug use
  • risk behaviour

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