HIV-Infected Men Who Have Sex with Men Who Identify Themselves as Belonging to Subcultures Are at Increased Risk for Hepatitis C Infection

Published: March 5, 2013

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) emerged as sexually transmitted infection among HIV-infected men who have sex with men (MSM). We studied whether HCV circulated in identifiable high-risk MSM subcultures and performed phylogenetic analysis.

HIV-infected MSM were recruited at the sexually transmitted infections (STI) outpatient clinic and a university HIV clinic in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 2008–2009. Participants completed a detailed questionnaire and were tested for HCV antibodies and RNA, with NS5B regions sequenced for analysis of clusters.

Among 786 participants, the median age was 43 (IQR 37–48) years, and 93 (11.8%) were HCV-positive. Seropositivity was associated with belonging to subcultures identified as leather (aOR 2.60; 95% CI 1.56–4.33), rubber/lycra (aOR 2.15; 95% CI 1.10–4.21), or jeans (aOR 2.23; 95% CI 1.41–3.54). The two largest HCV-RNA monophyletic clusters were compared; MSM in cluster I (genotype 1a, n = 13) reported more partners (P = 0.037) than MSM in cluster II (genotype 4d, n = 14), but demographics, subculture characteristics and other risk behaviors did not differ significantly between the two clusters.

HCV infection is associated with identifiable groups of leather/rubber/lycra/jeans subcultures among HIV-infected MSM. Separate epidemiological HCV transmission networks were not revealed. Active HCV screening and treatment within specific subcultures may reduce HCV spread among all MSM.

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