People who inject drugs (PWID) living with HIV are a priority population for eliminating hepatitis C virus (HCV) as a public health threat. Maximizing access to HCV prevention and treatment strategies are key steps towards elimination. We aimed to evaluate engagement in harm reduction programs and HCV treatment, and to describe injection practices among HIV-HCV co-infected PWID in Canada from 2003 to 2019.
We included Canadian Coinfection Cohort study participants who reported injecting drugs between 2003 and 2019 in Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia, Canada. We investigated temporal trends in HCV treatment uptake, efficacy, and effectiveness; injection practices; and engagement in harm reduction programs in three time periods based on HCV treatment availability: 1) interferon/ribavirin (2003-2010); 2) first-generation direct acting antivirals (DAAs) (2011-2013); 3) second-generation DAAs (2014-2019). Harm reduction services assessed included needle and syringe programs (NSP), opioid agonist therapy (OAT), and supervised injection sites (SIS).
Median age of participants (N = 1,077) at cohort entry was 44 years; 69% were males. Province-specific HCV treatment rates increased among HCV RNA-positive PWID, reaching 16 to 31 per 100 person-years in 2014-2019. Treatment efficacy improved from a 50 to 70% range in 2003-2010 to >90% across provinces in 2014-2019. Drug injecting patterns among active PWID varied by province, with an overall decrease in cocaine injection frequency and increasing opioid injections. In the most recent time period (2014-2019), needle/syringe sharing was reported at 8-22% of visits. Gaps remained in engagement in harm reduction programs: NSP use decreased (58-70% of visits), OAT engagement among opioid users was low (8-26% of visits), and participants rarely used SIS (1-15% of visits).
HCV treatment uptake and outcomes have improved among HIV-HCV coinfected PWID. Yet, this population remains exposed to drug-related harms, highlighting the need to tie HCV elimination strategies with enhanced harm reduction programs to improve overall health for this population.

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