Background A recent increase in reports of acute hepatitis C virus infection (HCV) in HIV-infected and HIV-uninfected men who have sex with men (MSM), with the sole risk factor being sexual exposure, has led to routine screening and targeted prevention requests for this population; current evidence for this necessity is unclear.
Objective A systematic review was conducted to assess the incidence of HCV infection among studies conducted in HIV-positive and/or HIV-negative MSM to explore the implications for routine HCV screening.
Data sources The MEDLINE, EMBASE and BIOSYS databases were searched for the period January 2000 to May 2012, yielding 21 studies. Six conferences were hand-searched for the same period yielding four abstracts.
Study selection Only studies in English presenting incidence rates of HCV and specifying HIV status were included.
Data abstraction Data were abstracted by two authors using predefined data fields. The STROBE checklist was used to assess study quality.
Data synthesis Data were divided into HIV-negative MSM and HIV-positive MSM subgroups, and HCV incidence density measurements were pooled. Using a DerSimonian–Laird random effects model, pooled incidence was 1.48/1000 person-years (95% CI 0.75 to 2.21) for the HIV-negative MSM subgroup. The HIV-positive MSM subgroup was at 4.1 times higher risk of acquiring HCV at 6.08/1000 person-years (95% CI 5.18 to 6.99). Studies directly comparing subgroups estimated a pooled risk difference of 3.45/1000 person-years (95% CI 1.63 to 5.27).
Conclusion HIV-positive MSM were at higher risk for acute HCV infection than HIV-negative MSM, substantiating the need for routine screening initiatives. Insufficient evidence exists to warrant routine screening of HIV-negative MSM, except on a case-by-case basis, such as high-risk sexual behaviour.
- Acute hepatitis C virus
- men who have sex with men
- sexual transmission
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Funding Dr Marina Klein is supported by a ‘Chercheur-boursiers cliniciens senior’ career award from the FRSQ. She has consulted and presented lectures for Glaxo-Smith-Kline/viv and consulted for Bristol Myers Squibb. Dr Nitika Pant Pai is supported by the CIHR New Investigator Award 2010 and by Grand Challenges Canada's 2011 Rising Star Award in Global Health Award.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.