Gay and bisexual men (GBM) are a key population affected by HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) co-infection. Providing HCV treatment scale-up across specialist and non-hepatitis specialist settings may eliminate HCV in this population. We aimed to (1) deliver and measure HCV treatment effectiveness, and (2) determine the population impact of treatment on HCV prevalence and incidence longitudinally.
The co-EC Study (Enhancing care and treatment among HCV/HIV co-infected individuals to Eliminate Hepatitis C transmission) was an implementation trial providing HCV direct-acting antiviral treatment in Melbourne, Australia, from 2016-2018. Individuals with HCV/HIV co-infection were prospectively enrolled from primary and tertiary-care services providing care for 85% of GBM with HIV in our jurisdiction. HCV-viraemic prevalence and HCV-antibody/viraemic incidence were measured using a state-wide, individually-linked, electronic surveillance system.
Among 200 participants recruited, 186 initiated treatment during the study period. Sustained virological response among primary care participants (98%, 95%CI:93-100%) was not different to tertiary care (98%, 95%CI:86-100%). From 2012-2019, between 2434 and 3476 GBM with HIV-infection attended our primary-care sites annually providing 13,801 person-years of follow-up; 50-60% received an HCV test annually, 10-14% were anti-HCV positive. Among those anti-HCV positive, viraemic prevalence declined 83% during the study (54% to 9%; 2016 to 2019). HCV incidence decreased 25% annually from 1.7/100 person-years in 2012 to 0.5/100 person-years in 2019 (incidence rate ratio 0.75; CI:0.68-0.83;p<0.001).
High treatment effectiveness by non-specialists demonstrates the feasibility of treatment scale-up in this population. Substantial declines in HCV incidence and prevalence among GBM with HIV-infection provides proof-of-concept for HCV micro-elimination.
ClinicalTrials.gov (Identifier: NCT02786758).
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