Canada: Spike in Hepatitis C Cases Raises HIV Fears
April 15, 2010
The relatively high number of hepatitis C cases in central Vancouver Island could be a sign that an increase in HIV is on the way, said Dr. Lorna Medd, medical health officer with the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA).
Central Vancouver Island had a hepatitis C infection rate of 87.6 cases per 100,000 people in 2008, compared to the overall provincial rate of 55.8 cases per 100,000. That year, CVI's HIV rate was 4.9 cases per 100,000, well below the provincial rate of 7.9, according to data from the B.C. Center for Disease Control.
"The HIV rates tend to follow the hepatitis C rates," said Medd. "We think we're in a window, and if we're able to get in with good harm-reduction support and safety supplies, we could prevent some cases of HIV."
Medd cited previous evidence from areas such as Vancouver's drug-riddled Downtown Eastside showing that when hepatitis C cases go up, HIV cases usually follow that trend. Often, there is a two- to three-year lag before the two statistics level.
"This is fairly new information that we have just gotten, so we don't know how long the disparity has existed between the hepatitis C infection rate and the HIV infection rate," said Medd.
VIHA said it plans on providing clean needles and harm-reduction measures at front-line health centers as a way to prevent blood-borne infections. Around 12 sites in Nanaimo have been shortlisted, but final selections will not be made until this summer.
04.14.2010; Dustin Walker, CanWest News Service