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Soc Sci Med. 2009 Feb;68(3):579-90. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.10.011. Epub 2008 Dec 4.

A meta-analysis of the hepatitis C virus distribution in diverse racial/ethnic drug injector groups.

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  • 1Center for Drug Use and HIV Research, National Development and Research Institutes, 71 West 23rd Street, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10010 United States.


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is mostly transmitted through blood-to-blood contact during injection drug use via shared contaminated syringes/needles or injection paraphernalia. This paper used meta-analytic methods to assess whether HCV prevalence and incidence varied across different racial/ethnic groups of injection drug users (IDUs) sampled internationally. The 29 prevalence and 11 incidence studies identified as part of the HCV Synthesis Project were categorized into subgroups based on similar racial/ethnic comparisons. The effect estimate used was the odds or risk ratio comparing HCV prevalence or incidence rates in racial/ethnic minority groups versus those of majority status. For prevalence studies, the clearest disparity in HCV status was observed in the Canadian and Australian Aboriginal versus White comparison, followed by the US non-White versus White categories. Overall, Hispanic IDUs had greater HCV prevalence, and HCV prevalence in African-Americans was not significantly greater than that of Whites in the US. Aboriginal groups showed higher HCV seroconversion rates when compared to others, and African-Americans had lower seroconversion rates compared to other IDUs in the US. The findings suggest that certain minority groups have elevated HCV rates in comparison to other IDUs, which may be a consequence of stigma, discrimination, different risk behaviors or decreased access to health care, services and preventive education. Future research should seek to explicitly explore and explain racial/ethnic variations in HCV prevalence and incidence, and define the groups more precisely to allow for more accurate detection of possible racial/ethnic differences in HCV rates.

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