GMFA press releases
Thousands of HIV-positive people have undiagnosed Hepatitis C
London, 17 February 2011 – 13,000 people who are living with HIV in the UK may also have Hepatitis C but not realise it, according to a new report published in the Journal of Viral Hepatitis. That represents nearly 70% of the total estimate of people with HIV and Hepatitis C in the UK. The report is based on a study by the UK Collaborative HIV Cohort, which indicates that gay men remain a high risk group, second only to injecting drug users, with 7% of HIV-positive gay men known to have Hepatitis C.
The study looked at 31,765 patients provided with care at ten specialist HIV clinics between 1996 and 2007. 36% had never been tested for Hepatitis C, despite guidelines from BHIVA (British HIV Association) recommending screening for all HIV-positive patients.
Much of the increase of Hepatitis C among HIV-positive gay men is now understood to be due to sexual transmission(1). If left untreated, the virus can lead to an increased risk of cirrhosis, liver cancer and even premature death. Re-infection is also fairly common. A study in Germany(2) found that 22% of HIV-positive gay men who had the virus and cleared it, either spontaneously or after treatment, became re-infected within less than six years. This is illustrated by an HIV-positive gay man’s account of his experience of having Hepatitis C on www.outspokenonhealth.com, the blog from GMFA, the gay men’s health charity:
“I acquired HIV in 2001 and I am currently undergoing treatment for Hepatitis C for the SECOND time!” writes the anonymous blogger. “I have stopped having unprotected sex because I simply can’t stand the trauma of all the STIs and health issues that go with it any more… people have no idea how [unprotected sex] can affect your mental health. And Hepatitis C is the new HIV. It’s out there and the treatment is hard going.”
In August 2010, GMFA launched an advertising campaign to make HIV-positive men aware of the health risks of Hepatitis C and HIV co-infection, how it is transmitted, and the benefits of early diagnosis and treatment for those with Hepatitis C. The ads and supporting information at www.gmfa.org.uk/hepc highlighted a number of ways that Hepatitis C can be transmitted, which include fisting, sharing sex toys, sharing pots of lube, and fucking without condoms. In group sex, the virus is often spread from one man to another (one arse to another arse) if condoms – or gloves for fisting - aren’t changed between partners, or if sex toys are used on one man and then another. It can also be transmitted by sharing drug-injecting needles or snorting straws.
Matthew Hodson, Head of Programmes at GMFA, says: “It’s a major concern that HIV-positive men aren’t being screened regularly for Hepatitis C. The virus often shows no symptoms and most people who get infected will not be able to get rid of it without treatment. We urge men with HIV to ask about Hepatitis C at their clinics and ensure they get tested. By getting diagnosed early, you can start treatment and stand the best chance of overcoming the virus.”
To read the full article, visit: http://www.onmedica.com/NewsArticle.aspx?id=73925b3a-b3ea-452e-9a37-4064ea870e20
- ENDS -
(1)HIV and Acute HEPATITIS C (HAAC) group. Recent epidemic of acute Hepatitis C virus in HIV-positive men who have sex with men linked to high-risk sexual behaviours, 2007.
(2)Stellbrink H-J et al. Increasing numbers of acute hepatitis C infections in HIV-infected MSM and high reinfection rates following SVR. Tenth International Congress on Drug Therapy in HIV Infection, Glasgow. Abstract P200. 2010.
Founded in 1992, GMFA is the UK’s leading charity dedicated to gay men’s health. Its mission is to improve gay men’s health by increasing the control they have over their own lives. The organisation is based on the belief that the best health promotion for gay men comes from gay men themselves. For this reason, it uses the knowledge and ideas of its 170 volunteers, most of them gay men, to design and plan its thought-provoking sexual health interventions. These include a range of advertising campaigns, leaflets, postcards and booklets; FS, its health magazine, distributed nationally in gay venues and GU clinics; and national and London-based courses covering sex education, life skills and smoking cessation. In addition, GMFA creates targeted sexual health interventions for black gay men and HIV positive gay men. Independent surveys have concluded that GMFA’s campaigns reach up to 60% of the London gay population and that the organisation is the most reliable agency at reaching gay men. The charity also provides accessible information on sexual health and other issues for gay men through its website at www.gmfa.org.uk.