There is a dearth of research on hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment uptake among people who inject drugs (PWIDs) and receive methadone substitution treatment (MST) in Eastern Europe and Central Asia countries. This study contributed to addressing that gap. We examined and identified factors that may affect HCV treatment uptake among PWID who received MST in the Republic of Georgia.
The design of the study is retrospective cohort study.
We conducted HCV care cascade analysis by matching the data from the web-based national hepatitis C program registry (ELIM C) and the MST treatment database between January 1, 2015, and December 31, 2018. Using the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Consensus HCV cascade of care (CoC) global instrument, we assessed the progress made toward the country’s 2020 and WHO’s 2030 hepatitis C elimination targets for the subpopulation of MST patients.
Overall, 10,498 individuals have been dispensed methadone during the study period. A total of 6828 MST beneficiaries had HCV screening, of whom 5843 (85.6%) tested positive; 5476 (93.7%) were tested for HCV viremia, and 5275 (96.3%) were confirmed with chronic HCV infection. More than 75% (n = 4000) of HCV-infected MST patients initiated HCV treatment, and 3772 (94.3%) completed the treatment. Of those eligible for sustained virologic response assessment, 71.0% (2641/3715) were evaluated, and the reported cure rate was 96.1% (2537). The study found the odds of patients starting HCV treatment differed by the type of facility they were screened at and whether they were registered as PWID at the screening sites. The patients screened at centers with integrated HCV treatment services had higher treatment uptake rates than those screened at other centers.
As the cumulative HCV treatment uptake and cure rates among MST patients with HCV infection are high (75.8% and 96.1%, respectively), the MST patients might become the first microelimination target population in which hepatitis C elimination will be achieved in Georgia. The study found the type of screening facility and whether MST patients registered themselves as PWID or not had significant effects on MST patients starting HCV treatment. At the same time, the study did not find gender and age to be significant predictors of MST patients starting HCV treatment. MST patients used different types of health facilities to get screened for HIV. Many of them did not register themselves as PWID when screened for HIV. The existence of only a few harm reduction sites with integrated HCV treatment services, a high level of stigma, and the criminalization of drug use might have incentivized MST patients to self-navigate across the HCV care continuum with the rest of the population. The implementation of focused, harm reduction, integrated HCV treatment with good peer and professional adherence support at treatment sites could help reach the hepatitis C elimination goals among MST patients.

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