April 25, 2008
Research has shown that hepatitis C virus (HCV) prevalence is higher among some patients of sexual health clinics than among the general population. In such clinics, screening for HCV may be universal, or it may be based on risk assessment. The aim of the current study was to explore the value of routine HCV testing among the patients of a sexual health center.
An audit was undertaken of the medical records and pathology data concerning all patients tested for HCV between 2000 and 2002 at Canberra Sexual Health Center. Its purpose was to determine whether the HCV diagnosis was already known and which, if any, risk factors were identified at the time the testing was performed.
During the three-year period, 3,845 tests were conducted on 3,156 patients. HCV seropositivity was confirmed in 95 patients (3.0 percent; 95 percent CI 2.4-3.7). Twenty-nine cases (30.5 percent) were new diagnoses. Among patients with confirmed HCV infection, 85.3 percent reported a history of injecting drug use. In those patients with HCV who denied injecting drugs, the most common risk factors were tattoos and body piercings. All but one HCV-positive patient was correctly identified by risk factor assessment.
The authors concluded, "HCV testing based on clinician-led risk assessment is an effective approach to HCV screening."