BACKGROUND: Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection has become a leading cause of non-acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)-related morbidity and mortality for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected persons in the highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) era. Despite injection drug use (IDU) remaining the main route of HCV infection, recent reports indicate outbreaks of acute HCV infection among HIV-infected men who have sex with men (MSM) and sexually transmitted infections in the absence of IDU. METHODS: We conducted a retrospective observational study of behavioural and demographic factors of patients with and without incident HCV infection among HIV-infected individuals followed at the AIDS Clinic of the Infectious Disease Department of the University of Ancona from 1989 to 2011. RESULTS: Overall, 440 patients were considered; a total of 145 patients had initial positive HCV antibody test results (HCV+); a total of 295 patients had initial negative HCV antibody test results (HCV-). In the latter population, 14 seroconverted to HCV antibody (neoHCV), with an overall incidence of 0.59 per 100 person-years. While IDU was the principal risk factor of HCV+, the main route of transmission of incident HCV infection was sexual transmission. The HCV- group was significantly older than the other two groups and showed a significantly lower CD4 count at HIV diagnosis than neoHCV. Being Italian and having a low level of education were significantly more represented in HCV+. Younger age at HIV infection, IDU and additional risk factors other than sexual transmission significantly affected the probability of being HCV+. The cumulative probability of developing HCV infection in the HCV- group was calculated to be 6% at 15 years. CONCLUSIONS: The epidemiology of the newly acquired HCV in HIV+ persons is changing. Therefore, a frequent and constant counselling about HCV infection is desirable and a periodical screening test is mandatory.
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