National News

Hep C among street youth 'alarming:' study

By The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - Vancouver street youth face an alarmingly high risk of hepatitis C infection because of a high incidence of injection drug use, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal.

The B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS tracked youth aged 14 to 26 over the course of six years.

Of 940 people recruited between September 2005 and November 2011, 100 tested positive for the disease at the outset.

Of the people 512 who tested negative at the beginning and showed up for at least one subsequent visit, 56 were positive in follow-up tests — 10.9 per cent.

And of those 512 youth, 166 — about 32 per cent — reported prior use of injection drugs.

"We found that the risk for (hepatitis C virus) acquisition among street youth in this setting was alarmingly high, and that intravenous drug injection remains a primary risk factor," said the study, led by Dr. Scott Hadland.

The study was also the first to look at the risk of hepatitis infection from injecting opioids like oxycodone and morphine, which is on the rise throughout North America.

It found that while the risk of infection is elevated by the injection use of heroin, cocaine and crystal meth, it does not appear to increase with opioid injection.

The researchers acknowledged that there was a relatively small number of youth in the study who engaged in prescription opioid misuse, which could have limited the ability to measure risk in opioid users.

It is also possible, the study said, that opioid users may not be as entrenched in the local drug scene and, therefore, may not associate frequently with hepatitis-positive drug users.

Either way, the excessive risk of infection among street youth requires specific prevention and mitigation strategies, the study found.

The street youth are a marginalized and difficult-to-reach population, Hadland wrote.

There are challenges to providing maintenance programs such as methadone to the population, and harm reduction services such as needle exchanges and safe injection sites may not effectively target younger users, he said in the study.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

You might like ...

Search continues for missing dirt bike rider on Burke Mountain
 
Amrik Virk advised Kwantlen on secret executive bonus
 
Eleventh-hour effort pushes Dakova on to new council’s plate
ELECTION 2014: New city council pushes teamwork
 
Young ballerinas to take the stage with Royal Winnipeg Ballet
 
Update: Husband charged in death of woman killed in Newton home
Government proposes changes to flood hazard areas
 
Ocean-view luxury condos now for sale in Qualicum Beach
 
Life in the bike lane

Community Events, November 2014

Add an Event

Read the latest eEdition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Nov 27 edition online now. Browse the archives.