BMC public health 2017 02 0717(1) 171 doi 10.1186/s12889-017-4102-5
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) screening has taken on new importance as a result of updated guidelines and new curative therapies. Relatively few studies have assessed HCV infection in homeless populations, and a minority include women. We assessed prevalence and correlates of HCV exposure in a cohort of homeless and unstably housed women in San Francisco, and estimated the proportion undiagnosed.
A probability sample of 246 women were recruited at free meal programs, homeless shelters, and low-cost single room occupancy hotels in San Francisco; women with HIV were oversampled. At baseline, anti-HCV status was assessed using an enzyme immunoassay, and results compared in both HIV-positive and negative women. Exposures were assessed by self-report. Logistic regression was used to assess factors independently associated th HCV exposure.
Among 246 women 45.9% were anti-HCV positive, of whom 61.1% were HIV coinfected; 27.4% of positives reported no prior screening. Most (72%) women were in the ‘baby-boomer’ birth cohort; 19% reported recent injection drug use (IDU). Factors independently associated with anti-HCV positivity were: being born in 1965 or earlier (AOR) 3.94; 95%CI: 1.88, 8.26), IDU history (AOR 4.0; 95%CI: 1.68, 9.55), and number of psychiatric diagnoses (AOR 1.16; 95%CI: 1.08, 1.25).
Results fill an important gap in information regarding HCV among homeless women, and confirm the need for enhanced screening in this population where a high proportion are baby-boomers and have a history of drug use and psychiatric problems. Due to their age and risk profile, there is a high probability that women in this study have been infected for decades, and thus have significant liver disease. The association with mental illness and HCV suggests that in addition increased screening, augmenting mental health care and support may enhance treatment success.