We assessed prevalence and correlates for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in young adult people who inject drugs (PWID) in rural New Mexico, where opioid use has been historically problematic.
Participants were 18-29 years old with self-reported injection drug use in the past 90 days. We conducted testing for HCV antibodies (anti-HCV) and HCV ribonucleic acid (RNA) and assessed sociodemographic and risk exposures. We provided counseling and referrals to prevention services and drug treatment. We estimated prevalence ratios (PR) to assess bivariate associations with HCV infection; and adjusted PRs using modified Poisson regression methods.
Among 256 participants tested for anti-HCV, 156 (60.9 %) had been exposed (anti-HCV positive), and of 230 tested for both anti-HCV and HCV RNA, 103 (44.8 %) had current infection (RNA-positive). The majority (87.6 %) of participants were Hispanic. Almost all (96.1 %) had ever injected heroin; 52.4 % and 52.0 % had ever injected methamphetamine or cocaine, respectively. Polysubstance injecting (heroin and any other drug) was associated with significantly higher prevalence of HCV infection (76.0 %) compared to injecting only heroin (24.0 %) (PR: 3.17 (95 % CI:1.93, 5.23)). Years of injecting, history of non-fatal opioid-involved overdose, polysubstance injecting, and stable housing were independently associated with HCV infection.
HCV is highly prevalent among young adult PWID in rural NM. The high reported prevalence of polysubstance injecting and its association with HCV infection should be considered in prevention planning.