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Epidemiol Infect. 2001 Dec;127(3):475-84.

Association between heroin use, needle sharing and tattoos received in prison with hepatitis B and C positivity among street-recruited injecting drug users in New Mexico, USA.

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  • 1Public Health Division, New Mexico Department of Health, Sanita Fe, USA.


This study aimed to assess the seroprevalence and risk factors for hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and HIV-1 infections among injecting drug users (IDU) in New Mexico. Serological and behavioural surveys were conducted in conjunction with street-based outreach, education and HIV counselling and testing. High rates of antibody positivity for HCV (82.2%) and HBV (61.1%), and a low rate for HIV (0.5%) were found. In multivariate analyses, both HBV and HCV infection were positively associated with increasing age, increasing years of injection and heroin use. Receipt of a tattoo in prison/jail was associated with HBV (odds ratio = 2.3, 95% confidence interval 1.4, 3.8) and HCV (OR = 3.4, 95% CI = 1.6, 7.5) infections. Prevention of bloodborne pathogens among IDUs should focus on young users, early in their drug use experience. Studies examining the relationship between tattooing and HBV and HCV infection are needed as are efforts to promote sterile tattooing, in prisons and elsewhere.

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