Limited knowledge about hepatitis C virus among MSM from the Amsterdam Cohort Studies

Published: July 18, 2010

Limited knowledge about hepatitis C virus among MSM from the Amsterdam Cohort Studies

F. Lambers1, M. Prins1,2, U. Davidovich1, I. Stolte1

1Public Health Service Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2Academic Medical Center of the University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Background: Since 2000 there is an outbreak of sexually acquired Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) among HIV infected men who have sex with men (MSM). Little is known about HCV knowledge and awareness among MSM. We therefore aimed to measure this and related sexual risk behaviour in the Amsterdam Cohort Studies (ACS) and look at differences in HCV knowledge between HIV-seronegative and seropositive MSM.

Methods: MSM from the ACS answered questions regarding knowledge about risk factors for, treatment of, and complications of HCV infection and regarding their sexual risk behaviour. Logistic regression analysis was used to test differences in knowledge and risk behaviour according to HIV-status.

Results: Seventy percent (303/433) of HIV-seronegative men and 82% (82/100) of HIV-seropositive men had ever heard of HCV and answered questions about HCV. Of the HIV-seropositive men that reported having been tested for HCV (58), 17% reported a HCV-seropositive status. No HIV-seronegative men reported being HCV positive. HIV-seropositive men more often considered HCV to be a severe disease than HIV-seronegative men (p< 0.05). The knowledge of HIV-seropositive men about certain complications of infection was significantly better. Overall though, awareness of long term complications such as liver cancer and cirrhosis was low ( ≤30%), and 56% knew HCV treatment exists. Participants were similarly aware of HCV risk factors, 91% being aware of unsafe sex and 72% of fisting/enema as risk factors. HCV related sexual risk behaviour in the last six months was also reported by HIV-seronegative men, but significantly more often by HIV-seropositive men.

Conclusions: In the ACS, knowledge about HCV seems more adequate in HIV-seropositive MSM. In all participants, there is especially a lack of knowledge about long term complications of chronic HCV infection. This, together with the presence of high sexual risk behaviour in this population, implies that more targeted HCV prevention messages are needed.

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