WASHINGTON, D.C. — Men who have sex with men in Switzerland had little knowledge of hepatitis C virus infection and how it is transmitted, according to new data presented at ICAAC 2014.
Participants who attended MSM screening clinics or met in other social settings completed an anonymous questionnaire to determine their knowledge of hepatitis C virus (HCV), its seroprevalence and risk factors. Study participants were rapid-tested for HCV with their consent.
More than 70% of participants (n=654; median age, 33 years) were Swiss or from nearby countries. Approximately 55% reported having unprotected anal sex in the previous year, 3.2% indicated they had HIV, and 21% were uncertain of their HIV status. One participant tested positive for HCV via rapid testing at questionnaire recruitment, and 54% were unaware of HCV.
MSM who were recruited at screening clinics had greater knowledge of HCV compared with those recruited at other meeting places (67% vs. 51%; P=.04).
Of the participants who knew of HCV, 23% knew an infected person, 46 % knew that HCV is treatable, 28% did not know if it was symptomatic; and 30% did not know if disease transmission was possible through sex toys or oral sex. Most participants said transmission occurred through anal sex (84%) or blood (83%). Fifty-one percent of respondents aware of HCV reported undergoing a previous HCV screening. HCV screening is currently only recommended in HIV-infected MSM and not in HIV-negative MSM, researcher Matthias Cavassini, MD, of the Lausanne University Hospital, Switzerland, told Healio.com/Hepatology.
“This study showed that more than 50% of the MSM participants lack basic knowledge of HCV,” Cavassini said during his presentation. “The low seroprevalence in our sample suggests that HCV should not be screened on a routine basis. Against this, the high percentage of [unprotected anal intercourse] suggests that screening should be offered in this uninformed population. Looking at the high-risk behavior, we should consider being proactive in screening also our HIV-negative MSM population and inform them about this infection along with the other sexually transmitted infections." – by Melinda Stevens
For more information:
Clerc O. Abstract V-675. Presented at: Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy; Sept. 5-9, 2014; Washington, D.C.
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.