SEATTLE – Once HIV positive men who have sex with men contract the hepatitis C virus, they are more likely to get it again, according a of 305 men in New York.
Overall, 38 men (12%) picked up another HCV infection a median of 1.9 years after clearance of their first, yielding a reinfection rate was 4.4/100 person-years, “a solid seven times higher than the primary infection rate” among HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM), said senior investigator, an associate professor of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York.
Thirty-three men cleared their second infection. Of those, six picked up a third infection at a median of 1.1 years, yielding an overall third infection incidence of 8.7/100 person-years.
The results held no matter how the men cleared HCV, whether spontaneously, as in about 10%, or by interferon before 2013, and direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) after.
Most reinfections occurred within 2 years of initial clearance, but some occurred more than a decade later.
The results suggest that there’s a particular need for HCV prevention efforts among men who have previously cleared the infection. For those patients, testing for HCV at an annual HIV checkup might not be frequent enough, Dr. Fierer said at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.
“Long-term surveillance is warranted for all HIV-infected MSM after clearance of HCV infection. Further, strategies to reduce HCV reinfections are needed to meet the goal of eliminating HCV in these men,” he said.
Also, “the large difference between primary” and secondary infection “rates suggests HCV risk is not distributed evenly between HIV-infected MSM, but concentrated among a small subpopulation. By definition, this subpopulation would have a higher prevalence” of risky behavior, such as condomless receptive anal sex and sexualized injection methamphetamine use, he said.
The high reinfection rate “tells us basically that we have not done a good job of” preventing infection and reinfection among at risk, HIV-positive men. There’s an “inadequate level of HCV treatment ... we need to eliminate restrictions on DAA” access, Dr. Fierer said.
As far as prevention goes, “I believe we just don’t know what to do. I tell all of my patients about the body fluids that have HCV in them,” which is a good start, he said.
The median age at first clearance was about 45 years, 82% of the men were white, and there was about a 50-50 split between people with private and public insurance.
The work was funded by Gilead. Dr. Fierer did not mention any disclosures.
SOURCE: Carollo JR et al. CROI 2019,