Female Intravenous Drug Users Have Higher Rates of HCV Infection Due to Riskier Habits

Specialty Pharmacy Times, July/August 2014, Volume 5, Issue 4

Risky injection practices among female intravenous drug users (IDU) lead to higher rates of hepatitis C infection than male IDU, according to a recent study.

Published online May 29, 2014, in BMJ Open, the study examines the habits of 417 IDU (277 men and 140 women) between January 2000 and October 2012 for a variety of risk factors that lead to HCV infection. The results show 129 new HCV infections (78 in men and 51 in women) with a significantly higher incidence rate identified among women.

Risky behavior indicators include greater frequency of injecting, use of heroin, sharing needles, and reuse of a cooker. The study finds women are more likely to have a steady IDU as a sex partner and more likely to pool money to buy drugs. Men in the study were more likely to inject drugs by themselves.

The researchers find that the higher incidence of HCV infection among women is principally associated with riskier. The study authors note that female IDU are sometimes dependent on their partners for drugs and injecting equipment, which may make it difficult for them to practice safe injecting within such a partnership.

Reducing incidence of HCV in female IDU may require targeting the different behaviors that lend themselves to infection, according to the study.

“Our findings call for further research on the reasons for such differences, including special focus on the impact of being in an intimate heterosexual partnership on injecting risk behavior, as well as new prevention approaches that specifically target young women and encourage safe injecting behavior, especially in the context of overlapping sexual and injecting relationships,” the study authors wrote.