Publications by authors named "Jason Grebely"

239 Publications

Opportunities to enhance linkage to hepatitis C care among hospitalised people with recent drug dependence in New South Wales, Australia: A population-based linkage study.

Clin Infect Dis 2021 Jun 9. Epub 2021 Jun 9.

The Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Background: People who inject drugs are at greater risk of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and hospitalisation, yet admissions are not utilised for HCV treatment initiation. We aimed to assess the extent to which people with HCV notification, including those with evidence of recent drug dependence, are hospitalised while eligible for direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapy, and treatment uptake according to hospitalisation in the DAA era.

Methods: We conducted a longitudinal, population-based cohort study of people living with HCV in the DAA era (March 2016-December 2018) through analysis of linked databases in New South Wales, Australia. Kaplan Meier estimates were used to report HCV treatment uptake by frequency, length, and cause-specific hospitalisation.

Results: Among 57,467 people, 14,938 (26%) had evidence of recent drug dependence, 50% (n=7,506) of whom were hospitalised while DAA eligible. Incidence of selected cause-specific hospitalisation was highest for mental health-related (15.84 per 100 person-years [PY]), drug-related (15.20 per 100PY), and injection-related infectious disease (9.15 per 100PY) hospitalisations, and lowest for alcohol use disorder (4.58 per 100PY) and liver-related (3.13 per 100PY). 65% (n=4,898) of those hospitalised had been admitted >2 times and 46% (n=3,437) were hospitalised >7 days. By the end of 2018, DAA therapy was lowest for those hospitalised >2 times, for >7 days, and those whose first admission was for injection-related infectious disease, mental health disorders, and drug-related complications.

Conclusions: Among people who have evidence of recent drug dependence, frequent hospitalisation-particularly mental health, drug, and alcohol admissions-presents an opportunity for engagement in HCV care.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciab526DOI Listing
June 2021

Evaluating the prevention benefit of HCV treatment: Modelling the SToP-C treatment as prevention study in prisons.

Hepatology 2021 Jun 9. Epub 2021 Jun 9.

Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.

Background & Aims: Between 2014-2019, the SToP-C trial observed a halving in HCV incidence in four Australian prisons following scale-up of direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapy. However, the contribution of HCV treatment to this decline is unclear due to the study not having a control group. We used modelling to consider this question.

Approach & Results: We parameterised and calibrated a dynamic model of HCV transmission in prisons to data from each SToP-C prison on incarceration dynamics, injecting drug use, HCV prevalence trends among prison entrants, baseline HCV incidence before treatment scale-up, and subsequent HCV treatment scale-up. The model projected the decrease in HCV incidence resulting from increases in HCV treatment and other effects. We assessed whether the model agreed better with observed reductions in HCV incidence overall and by prison if we included HCV treatment scale-up, and its prevention benefits, or did not. The model estimated how much of the observed decrease in HCV incidence was due to HCV treatment in prison. The model projected a decrease in HCV incidence of 48.5% (95% uncertainty interval [UI] 41.9-54.1%) following treatment scale-up across the four prisons, agreeing with the observed HCV incidence decrease (47.6%, 95% confidence interval 23.4-64.2%) from the SToP-C trial. Without any in-prison HCV treatment, the model indicated that incidence would have decreased by 7.2% (95%UI -0.3-13.6%). This suggests 85.1% (95%UI 72.6-100.6%) of the observed halving in incidence was from HCV treatment scale-up, with the remainder from observed decreases in HCV prevalence among prison entrants (14.9%; 95%UI -0.6-27.4%).

Conclusions: Our results demonstrate the prevention benefits of scaling up HCV treatment in prison settings. Prison-based DAA scale-up should be an important component of HCV elimination strategies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hep.32002DOI Listing
June 2021

Association of Opioid Agonist Treatment With All-Cause Mortality and Specific Causes of Death Among People With Opioid Dependence: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.

JAMA Psychiatry 2021 Jun 2. Epub 2021 Jun 2.

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Importance: Mortality among people with opioid dependence is higher than that of the general population. Opioid agonist treatment (OAT) is an effective treatment for opioid dependence; however, there has not yet been a systematic review on the relationship between OAT and specific causes of mortality.

Objective: To estimate the association of time receiving OAT with mortality.

Data Sources: The Embase, MEDLINE, and PsycINFO databases were searched through February 18, 2020, including clinical trial registries and previous Cochrane reviews.

Study Selection: All observational studies that collected data on all-cause or cause-specific mortality among people with opioid dependence while receiving and not receiving OAT were included. Randomized clinical trials (RCTs) were also included.

Data Extraction And Synthesis: This systematic review and meta-analysis followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Data on study, participant, and treatment characteristics were extracted; person-years, all-cause mortality, and cause-specific mortality were calculated. Crude mortality rates and rate ratios (RRs) were pooled using random-effects meta-analyses.

Main Outcomes And Measures: Overall all-cause and cause-specific mortality both by setting and by participant characteristics. Methadone and buprenorphine OAT were evaluated specifically.

Results: Fifteen RCTs including 3852 participants and 36 primary cohort studies including 749 634 participants were analyzed. Among the cohort studies, the rate of all-cause mortality during OAT was more than half of the rate seen during time out of OAT (RR, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.42-0.53). This association was consistent regardless of patient sex, age, geographic location, HIV status, and hepatitis C virus status and whether drugs were taken through injection. Associations were not different for methadone (RR, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.41-0.54) vs buprenorphine (RR, 0.34; 95% CI, 0.26-0.45). There was lower risk of suicide (RR, 0.48; 95% CI, 0.37-0.61), cancer (RR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.52-0.98), drug-related (RR, 0.41; 95% CI, 0.33-0.52), alcohol-related (RR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.49-0.72), and cardiovascular-related (RR, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.60-0.79) mortality during OAT. In the first 4 weeks of methadone treatment, rates of all-cause mortality and drug-related poisoning were almost double the rates during the remainder of OAT (RR, 2.01; 95% CI, 1.55-5.09) but not for buprenorphine (RR, 0.58; 95% CI, 0.18-1.85). All-cause mortality was 6 times higher in the 4 weeks after OAT cessation (RR, 6.01; 95% CI, 4.32-8.36), remaining double the rate for the remainder of time not receiving OAT (RR, 1.81; 95% CI, 1.50-2.18). Opioid agonist treatment was associated with a lower risk of mortality during incarceration (RR, 0.06; 95% CI, 0.01-0.46) and after release from incarceration (RR, 0.09; 95% CI, 0.02-0.56).

Conclusions And Relevance: This systematic review and meta-analysis found that OAT was associated with lower rates of mortality. However, access to OAT remains limited, and insurance coverage remains low. Work to improve access globally may have important population-level benefits.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.0976DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8173472PMC
June 2021

Sofosbuvir/velpatasvir for 12 vs. 6 weeks for the treatment of recently acquired hepatitis C infection.

J Hepatol 2021 May 20. Epub 2021 May 20.

St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney, Australia.

Background And Aims: Shortened duration therapy for acute and recent hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection has been shown to be highly effective in several small non-randomised studies with direct-acting antiviral regimens, however large randomised studies are lacking.

Methods: REACT was an NIH-funded multicentre international, open-label, randomised, phase 4 non-inferiority trial examining the efficacy of short course (6 weeks) versus standard course (12 weeks) therapy with sofosbuvir-velpatasvir for recent HCV infection (estimated duration of infection <= 12 months). Randomisation occurred at week 6. The primary endpoint was SVR12 in the intention-to treat (ITT) population. A total of 250 participants were planned for enrolment. On advice of the data safety and monitoring board the study was halted early.

Results: Primary analysis population consisted of 188 randomised participants at termination of study enrolment; short arm (n=93), standard arm (n=95). Ninety seven percent were male and 69% HIV positive. ITT SVR12 was 76/93, 81.7% (95% CI 72.4-89.0) in the short arm and 86/95, 90.5% (95% CI 82.7-95.6) in the standard arm. The difference between the arms was -8.8 (95% CI: -18.6, 1.0). By modified ITT analysis in which non-virological reasons for failure were excluded (death, reinfection, lost to follow-up) SVR12 was 76/85, 89.4% (95% CI 80.8-95.0) in the short arm and 86/88, 97.7% in the standard arm (95% CI 92.0-99.7; difference -8.3%, p=0.025).

Conclusions: In this randomised study in recent HCV infection, 6 weeks sofosbuvir-velpatasvir did not meet the criteria for non-inferiority to standard 12 weeks duration.

Lay Summary: In this randomised trial one hundred and eighty people with recently acquired hepatitis C infection were randomly assigned to treatment using either a short 6-week course (93 people) or standard 12-week course (95 people) of the hepatitis C treatment sofosbuvir/velpatasvir. There were nine cases of relapse after treatment in the short course and two using the standard course. A shortened course of 6 weeks therapy for hepatitis C infection was considered not as effective as a standard twelve week course in people with recently acquired hepatitis C infection.

Trial Registration: Clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT02625909.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2021.04.056DOI Listing
May 2021

Evaluation of hepatitis C treatment-as-prevention within Australian prisons (SToP-C): a prospective cohort study.

Lancet Gastroenterol Hepatol 2021 Jul 7;6(7):533-546. Epub 2021 May 7.

The Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia. Electronic address:

Background: Limited empirical evidence exists for the effectiveness of hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment-as-prevention. The Surveillance and Treatment of Prisoners with hepatitis C (SToP-C) study aimed to assess the effect of HCV treatment-as-prevention in the prison setting.

Methods: SToP-C was a prospective study, including a before-and-after analysis, within a cohort of people incarcerated in two maximum-security prisons (male) and two medium-security prisons (one male, one female) in New South Wales, Australia. All prison inmates aged at least 18 years were eligible for enrolment. After HCV testing, participants were monitored for risk behaviours and HCV infection, among three sub-populations: uninfected (HCV antibody-negative); previously infected (HCV antibody-positive, HCV RNA-negative); and infected (HCV antibody and HCV RNA-positive). Uninfected participants were followed up every 3-6 months to detect HCV primary infection and previously infected participants were followed up every 3-6 months to detect re-infection. Participants with HCV infection were assessed for treatment, initially standard-of-care treatment (administered by prison health services) from 2014 to mid-2017, then direct-acting antiviral (DAA) treatment scale-up from mid-2017 onwards (12 weeks of sofosbuvir plus velpatasvir, administered through SToP-C). Participants were followed up until study closure in November, 2019. The primary study outcome was HCV incidence before and after DAA treatment scale-up among participants at risk of HCV primary infection or re-infection. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02064049.

Findings: Between Oct 30, 2014, and Sept 30, 2019, 3691 participants were enrolled in the SToP-C study. 719 (19%) participants had detectable HCV RNA, 2240 (61%) were at risk of primary HCV infection, and 725 (20%) were at risk of re-infection at baseline. DAA treatment was initiated in 349 (70%) of 499 eligible participants during the treatment scale-up period. The HCV incidence analysis comprised 1643 participants at risk of HCV infection or re-infection during longitudinal follow-up (median age 33 years [IQR 27-42]; 1350 [82%] male). 487 (30%) of 1643 participants reported injecting drugs in prison. HCV incidence decreased from 8·31 per 100 person-years in the pre-treatment scale-up period to 4·35 per 100 person-years in the post-treatment scale-up period (incidence rate ratio [IRR] 0·52 [95% CI 0·36-0·78]; p=0·0007). The incidence of primary infection decreased from 6·64 per 100 person-years in the pre-treatment scale-up period to 2·85 per 100 person-years in the post-treatment scale-up period (IRR 0·43 [95% CI 0·25-0·74]; p=0·0019), whereas the incidence of re-infection decreased from 12·36 per 100 person-years to 7·27 per 100 person-years (0·59 [0·35-1·00]; p=0·050). Among participants reporting injecting drugs during their current imprisonment, the incidence of primary infection decreased from 39·08 per 100 person-years in the pre-treatment scale-up period to 14·03 per 100 person-years in the post-treatment scale-up period (IRR 0·36 [95% CI 0·16-0·80]; p=0·0091), and the incidence of re-infection decreased from 15·26 per 100 person-years to 9·34 per 100 person-years (0·61 [0·34-1·09]; p=0·093). The adjusted analysis (adjusted for age, Indigenous Australian ethnicity, duration of stay in prison, previous imprisonment, injecting drug use status, and prison site) indicated a significant reduction in the risk of HCV infection between the pre-DAA treatment scale-up and post-DAA treatment scale-up periods (adjusted hazard ratio 0·50 [95% CI 0·33-0·76]; p=0·0014).

Interpretation: DAA treatment scale-up was associated with reduced HCV incidence in prison, indicative of a beneficial effect of HCV treatment-as-prevention in this setting. These findings support broad DAA treatment scale-up within incarcerated populations.

Funding: Australian National Health and Medical Research Council Partnership Project Grant and Gilead Sciences.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2468-1253(21)00077-7DOI Listing
July 2021

Concordance between self-reported and current hepatitis C virus infection status in a sample of people who inject drugs in Sydney and Canberra, Australia.

Drug Alcohol Rev 2021 Mar 23. Epub 2021 Mar 23.

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Introduction: Awareness of hepatitis C virus (HCV) status among people who inject drugs is critical to ensure linkage to care and reduce transmission risk. Testing pathways, confusion about results and possible reinfection raise potential for discordance between perceived and actual HCV status among people who inject drugs. We evaluated self-reported and serologically confirmed HCV status concordance among a sample of Australian people who inject drugs.

Methods: Data were collected in May-June 2018 from participants in Canberra and Sydney, Australia, who had injected drugs at least monthly in the past 6 months. Participants completed a structured interview assessing self-reported HCV status and provided a dried blood spot sample for HCV RNA testing.

Results: Of 103 participants, 95% self-reported ever receiving antibody testing, 58% of whom reported having received RNA testing. Seventy-three percent of participants reported never having been told that they had HCV, 18% reported current infection and 9% did not know their current status. According to dried blood spot RNA testing, 20% were currently infected. Over a quarter of the sample (28%, n = 29) did not accurately report their HCV status, half of whom were unaware of a current infection.

Discussion And Conclusions: With over one-quarter of the sample in our study not accurately reporting their current HCV status, our findings reinforce the importance of regular testing for active infection, and the need for improved health literacy on HCV antibody and RNA test results, HCV status post-treatment and reinfection risk.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/dar.13282DOI Listing
March 2021

Concordance between self-reported and current hepatitis C virus infection status in a sample of people who inject drugs in Sydney and Canberra, Australia.

Drug Alcohol Rev 2021 Mar 23. Epub 2021 Mar 23.

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Introduction: Awareness of hepatitis C virus (HCV) status among people who inject drugs is critical to ensure linkage to care and reduce transmission risk. Testing pathways, confusion about results and possible reinfection raise potential for discordance between perceived and actual HCV status among people who inject drugs. We evaluated self-reported and serologically confirmed HCV status concordance among a sample of Australian people who inject drugs.

Methods: Data were collected in May-June 2018 from participants in Canberra and Sydney, Australia, who had injected drugs at least monthly in the past 6 months. Participants completed a structured interview assessing self-reported HCV status and provided a dried blood spot sample for HCV RNA testing.

Results: Of 103 participants, 95% self-reported ever receiving antibody testing, 58% of whom reported having received RNA testing. Seventy-three percent of participants reported never having been told that they had HCV, 18% reported current infection and 9% did not know their current status. According to dried blood spot RNA testing, 20% were currently infected. Over a quarter of the sample (28%, n = 29) did not accurately report their HCV status, half of whom were unaware of a current infection.

Discussion And Conclusions: With over one-quarter of the sample in our study not accurately reporting their current HCV status, our findings reinforce the importance of regular testing for active infection, and the need for improved health literacy on HCV antibody and RNA test results, HCV status post-treatment and reinfection risk.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/dar.13282DOI Listing
March 2021

Novel Hepatitic C Virus (HCV) Diagnosis and Treatment Delivery Systems: Facilitating HCV Elimination by Thinking Outside the Clinic.

J Infect Dis 2020 11;222(Suppl 9):S758-S772

The Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

The World Health Organization has set a goal to eliminate hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection as public health threat by 2030. Although the advent of highly effective and tolerable direct-acting antiviral therapy has paved the way for HCV elimination, most people with HCV infection remain undiagnosed and untreated globally, with striking disparities between high-income and low- to middle-income countries. Novel decentralized and cost-effective "test-and-treat" strategies are critically needed to identify the millions of people unaware of their status and link them to treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiaa366DOI Listing
November 2020

COVID-19 and the health of people who use drugs: What is and what could be?

Int J Drug Policy 2020 09;83:102958

Centre for Social Research in Health, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, Australia; London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has changed the world as we know it, and continues to do so. How COVID-19 affects people who use drugs, the environments in which they live, and capacities of response, warrants immediate attention. This special issue begins to map how COVID-19 is altering the health of people who use drugs, including in relation to patterns of drug use, service responses, harms that may relate to drug use, interventions to reduce risk of harms, COVID-19 health, and drug policies. We emphasise the need to envisage COVID-19 and its effects as a matter of intersecting 'complex adaptive systems': that is, the impacts of COVID-19 extend beyond the virus and related illness conditions to encompass multiple social, cultural, economic, policy and political effects; and these affect the health of people who use drugs directly as well as indirectly by altering the risk and enabling environments in which they live. We synthesize emergent evidence on the impact of COVID-19 on the health of people who use drugs. A key concern we identify is how to sustain policy and service delivery improvements prompted by COVID-19. We need to maintain an ethos of emergent adaptation and experimentation towards the creation of safer environments in relation to the health of people who use drugs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102958DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7837052PMC
September 2020

Association between opioid agonist therapy use and HIV testing uptake among people who have recently injected drugs: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Addiction 2021 Jul 3;116(7):1664-1676. Epub 2021 Feb 3.

Health Protection Research Unit, Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol, Canynge Hall, 39 Whatley Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2PS, UK.

Background And Aim: Globally, nearly one in five people who inject drugs (PWID) are living with HIV, and the rate of new HIV infections in PWID is increasing in some settings. Early diagnosis is crucial for effective HIV control. We reviewed the evidence on the association between opioid agonist therapy (OAT) and HIV testing uptake among PWID.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review searching MEDLINE, Scopus, Web of Science, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and PsycINFO for studies published from January 2000 to March 2019. Reference lists and conference proceedings were hand-searched. Observational and intervention studies were eligible for inclusion. Risk of bias was assessed using the Risk of Bias in Non-Randomised Studies of Interventions (ROBINS-I) tool. Meta-analyses were conducted using random-effects models.

Results: Of 13 373 records identified, 11 studies from Australia, Europe, Malaysia and the United States were included. All studies had at least a serious risk of bias, largely due to confounding and selection bias, making it difficult to draw causal conclusions from the evidence. Ten studies provided data on the association between current OAT use and recent HIV testing. Six showed a positive association, while four provided little evidence of an association: pooled odds ratio (OR) = 1.71, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.28-2.27. Looking at having ever been on OAT and having ever been HIV tested, seven studies showed a positive association and three showed either weak or no evidence of an association: pooled OR = 3.82, 95% CI = 2.96-4.95.

Conclusions: Opioid agonist therapy may increase uptake of HIV testing among people who inject drugs, providing further evidence that opioid agonist therapy improves the HIV treatment care cascade.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/add.15316DOI Listing
July 2021

Perceptions of injectable opioid agonist treatment (iOAT) among people who regularly use opioids in Australia: findings from a cross-sectional study in three Australian cities.

Addiction 2021 06 23;116(6):1482-1494. Epub 2020 Nov 23.

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Background And Aims: Not all people experiencing opioid dependence benefit from oral opioid agonist treatment. The aim of this study was to examine perceptions of (supervised) injectable opioid agonist treatment (iOAT) (described as 'an opioid similar to heroin self-injected at a clinic several times a day') among people who regularly use opioids and determine how common iOAT eligibility criteria accord with interest in iOAT.

Design: Cross-sectional survey SETTING: Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart, Australia PARTICIPANTS: A total of 344 people (63% male) who use opioids regularly and had ever injected opioids, interviewed December 2017-March 2018. The mean age of participants was 41.5 years [standard deviation (SD) = 8.5].

Measurements: Primary outcome measures were interest in iOAT, factors associated with interest and the proportion of participants who would be eligible using common criteria from trials and guidelines. We examined willingness to travel for iOAT, medication preferences and perspectives on whom should receive iOAT.

Findings: Overall, 53% of participants (n = 182) believed that iOAT would be a good treatment option for them. Participants who believed that iOAT was a good treatment option for them were more likely to be male [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 1.76, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.10-2.82], have used heroin in the past month (aOR = 6.03, 95% CI = 2.86-12.71), currently regularly inject opioids (aOR = 1.84, 95% CI = 1.16-2.91) and have met ICD-10 criteria for opioid dependence (aOR = 3.46, 95% CI = 1.65-7.24). Those interested in iOAT had commenced more treatment episodes (aOR =1.06, 95% CI = 1.00-1.12). Among those interested in iOAT (n = 182), 26% (n = 48) met common eligibility criteria for iOAT.

Conclusions: Interest in injectable opioid agonist treatment does not appear to be universal among people who regularly use opioids. Among study participants who expressed interest in injectable opioid agonist treatment, most did not meet common eligibility criteria.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/add.15297DOI Listing
June 2021

Applying a diffusion of innovations framework to the scale-up of direct-acting antiviral therapies for hepatitis C virus infection: Identified challenges for widespread implementation.

Int J Drug Policy 2020 Oct 12;86:102964. Epub 2020 Oct 12.

The Centre for Social Research in Health, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Background And Aims: Interferon-free, direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) for hepatitis C virus (HCV) offer much promise to achieve World Health Organization targets by 2030. However, impediments at the practitioner and health-system level will continue to obstruct the scale-up of DAAs worldwide unless identified and acted upon. Applying a diffusion of innovations framework, the aim of this study was to identify structural factors impacting practitioner experiences of managing HCV treatment.

Methods: In-depth, semi-structured, telephone interviews took place between September 2018 and April 2019 to investigate barriers and facilitators for engaging in HCV management and DAA therapy amongst general practitioners (GPs) who prescribe opioid agonist therapy and drug and alcohol specialists in Australia. Interviews were transcribed verbatim, de-identified, and coded, and data were analysed with iterative categorisation and thematic analysis using Everett Rogers's diffusion of innovation framework.

Results: amongst 30 participants (12 GPs, 18 drug and alcohol specialists), several structural factors were reported to impede practitioner efforts to deliver optimal HCV care. Two primary themes were explored: contextual factors for the diffusion of DAA therapies, including attempts by participants to shift clinic culture and respond to siloed health structures, and adopter factors. Some participants chose to 'rock the boat' by circumventing clinic protocol and HCV guidelines to treat more clients, effectively shifting adopter categories to become greater advocates in HCV care. Also, while a role for GPs as the 'new adopters' in HCV management was discussed, many participants expressed uncertainty as to how much GPs should become involved in the diffusion of DAA therapies more widely.

Conclusions: Reducing the global burden of HCV infection will not be possible without the widespread delivery of HCV treatment amongst practitioners. Practitioners and health workers require leadership and resources from health authorities so that the individual and population-level benefits of DAA therapy are realised.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102964DOI Listing
October 2020

Creating an environment for equitable access to direct-acting antiviral therapy for people who inject drugs with hepatitis C.

Liver Int 2020 10;40(10):2353-2355

The Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/liv.14661DOI Listing
October 2020

High hepatitis C treatment uptake among people with recent drug dependence in New South Wales, Australia.

J Hepatol 2021 Feb 12;74(2):293-302. Epub 2020 Sep 12.

The Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Background & Aims: High HCV treatment uptake among people at most risk of transmission is essential to achieve elimination. We aimed to characterise subpopulations of people with HCV based on drug dependence, to estimate direct-acting antiviral (DAA) uptake in an unrestricted treatment era, and to evaluate factors associated with treatment uptake among people with recent drug dependence.

Methods: HCV notifications in New South Wales, Australia (1995-2017) were linked to opioid agonist therapy (OAT), hospitalisations, incarcerations, HIV notifications, deaths, and prescription databases. Drug dependence was defined as hospitalisation due to injectable drugs or receipt of OAT, with indicators in 2016-2018 considered recent. Records were weighted to account for spontaneous clearance. Logistic regression was used to analyse factors associated with treatment uptake among those with recent drug dependence.

Results: 57,467 people were estimated to have chronic HCV throughout the DAA era. Treatment uptake was highest among those with recent (47%), compared to those with distant (38%), and no (33%) drug dependence. Among those with recent drug dependence, treatment was more likely among those with HIV (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.71; 95% CI 1.24-2.36), recent incarceration (aOR 1.10; 95% CI 1.01-1.19), and history of alcohol use disorder (aOR 1.22; 95% CI 1.13-1.31). Treatment was less likely among women (aOR 0.78; 95% CI 0.72-0.84), patients of Indigenous ethnicity (aOR 0.75; 95% CI 0.69-0.81), foreign-born individuals (aOR 0.86; 95% CI 0.78-0.96), those with outer-metropolitan notifications (aOR 0.90; 95% CI 0.82-0.98), HBV coinfection (aOR 0.69; 95% CI 0.59-0.80), and >1 recent hospitalisation (aOR: 0.91; 95% CI 0.84-0.98).

Conclusions: These data provide evidence of high DAA uptake among people with recent drug dependence, including those who are incarcerated. Enhancing this encouraging initial uptake among high-risk populations will be essential to achieve HCV elimination.

Lay Summary: To facilitate HCV elimination, those at highest risk of infection and transmission are a treatment priority. This study shows the successes of Australia's universal provision of DAA therapy in reducing the barriers to treatment which have historically persisted among people who inject drugs. Despite higher DAA therapy uptake among those with recent drug dependence, gaps remain. Strategies which aim to reduce marginalisation and increase treatment uptake to ensure equitable HCV elimination must be advanced.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhep.2020.08.038DOI Listing
February 2021

Open-label, multicentre, single-arm trial of monthly injections of depot buprenorphine in people with opioid dependence: protocol for the CoLAB study.

BMJ Open 2020 07 31;10(7):e034389. Epub 2020 Jul 31.

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Introduction: Opioid agonist treatment is effective for opioid dependence and newer extended-release buprenorphine (BUP-XR) injections represent a significant development. The Community Long-Acting Buprenorphine (CoLAB) study aims to evaluate client outcomes among people with opioid dependence receiving 48 weeks of BUP-XR treatment, and examines the implementation of BUP-XR in diverse community healthcare settings in Australia.

Methods And Analysis: The CoLAB study is a prospective single-arm, multicentre, open-label trial of monthly BUP-XR injections in people with opioid dependence. Participants are being recruited from a network of general practitioner and specialist drug treatment services located in the states of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia in Australia. Following a minimum 7 days on 8-32 mg of sublingual buprenorphine (±naloxone), participants will receive monthly subcutaneous BUP-XR injections administered by a healthcare practitioner at intervals of 28 days (-2/+14 days). The primary endpoint is participant retention in treatment at 48 weeks after treatment initiation. Secondary endpoints will evaluate dosing schedule variations, craving, withdrawal, substance use, health and well-being, and client-reported treatment experience. Qualitative and costing substudies will examine implementation barriers and facilitators at the client and provider level.

Ethics And Dissemination: The study has received ethics approval from the St Vincent's Hospital Sydney Human Research Ethics Committee (Ref. HREC/18/SVH/221). The findings will be disseminated via publication in peer-reviewed journals, presentations at national and international scientific conferences, and in relevant community organisation publications and forums.

Trial Registration Number: NCT03809143 PROTOCOL IDENTIFIER: CoLAB1801, V.4.0 dated 01 August 2019.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2019-034389DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7398105PMC
July 2020

Injecting risk behaviours amongst people who inject drugs: A global multi-stage systematic review and meta-analysis.

Int J Drug Policy 2020 10 24;84:102866. Epub 2020 Jul 24.

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia. Electronic address:

Background: Injecting risk behaviour, such as receptive sharing of injecting equipment and/or re-using one's equipment, is associated with bloodborne virus transmission and infections in people who inject drugs (PWID). We aimed to estimate prevalence and correlates of injecting risk behaviours amongst PWID.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analyses to estimate country, regional, and global prevalences of injecting risk behaviours (including sharing or re-using needle/syringe and sharing other injecting equipment). Using meta-regression analyses, we determined associations between study- and country-level characteristics and receptive needle/syringe sharing.

Results: From 61,077 identified papers and reports and 61 studies from expert consutation, evidence on injecting risk behaviours was available for 464 studies from 88 countries. Globally, it is estimated that 17.9% (95%CI: 16.2-19.6%) of PWID engaged in receptive needle/syringe sharing at last injection, 23.9% (95%CI: 21.2-26.5%) in the past month, and 32.8% (95%CI: 28.6-37.0%) in the past 6-12 months. Receptive sharing of other injecting equipment was common. Higher prevalence of receptive needle/syringe sharing in the previous month was associated with samples of PWID with a lower proportion of females, shorter average injecting duration, a higher proportion with ≥daily injecting, and older studies. Countries with lower development index, higher gender inequality and lower NSP coverage had higher proportions reporting receptive needle/syringe sharing.

Conclusions: High levels of injecting risk behaviours were observed amongst PWID globally, although estimates were only available for half of the countries with evidence of injecting drug use. There is a need for better capturing of injecting risk behaviours in these countries to inform implementation of harm reduction services and evaluate potential impacts of interventions to reduce risk.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102866DOI Listing
October 2020

Evaluation of the Aptima HCV Quant Dx Assay for Hepatitis C Virus RNA Detection from Fingerstick Capillary Dried Blood Spot and Venepuncture-Collected Samples.

J Infect Dis 2021 Mar;223(5):818-826

Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

Background: Simplified diagnostic strategies are needed increase hepatitis C virus (HCV) testing to determine active infection and link people into treatment. Collection methods such as dried blood spots (DBS) have advantages over standard phlebotomy, especially within marginalized populations.

Methods: We evaluated the diagnostic performance of the Aptima HCV Quant assay for the quantification and detection of HCV RNA from paired DBS and venepuncture samples. Specimens were collected from participants enrolled in an Australian observational study. We compared HCV RNA detection from DBS against venepuncture samples (gold standard).

Results: One hundred sixty-four participants had paired samples and HCV RNA was detected in 45 (27% [95% confidence interval, 21%-35%]) by the Aptima assay in venepuncture samples. Sensitivity of the Aptima assay for HCV RNA quantification from DBS (≥10 IU/mL in plasma) was 100% and specificity was 100%. Sensitivity for HCV RNA detection from DBS was 95.6% and specificity was 94.1%. A small bias in plasma over DBS was observed with good agreement (R2 = 0.96).

Conclusions: The Aptima HCV Quant assay detects active infection from DBS samples with acceptable diagnostic performance and is clinically comparable to plasma. These data will strengthen the case for the registration of a DBS kit insert claim, enabling future clinical utility.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiaa442DOI Listing
March 2021

Association between opioid agonist therapy and testing, treatment uptake, and treatment outcomes for hepatitis C infection among people who inject drugs: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

Clin Infect Dis 2020 May 24. Epub 2020 May 24.

The Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Background: People who inject drugs (PWID) experience barriers to accessing testing and treatment for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Opioid agonist therapy (OAT) may provide an opportunity to improve access to HCV care. This systematic review assessed the association of OAT and HCV testing, treatment, and treatment outcomes among PWID.

Methods: Bibliographic databases and conference presentations were searched for studies assessing the association between OAT and HCV testing, treatment, and treatment outcomes [direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapy only] among people who inject drugs (in the past year). Meta-analysis was used to pool estimates.

Results: Among 9,877 articles identified, 22 studies conducted in Australia, Europe, North America, and Thailand were eligible and included. Risk of bias was serious in 21 studies and moderate in one study. Current/recent OAT was associated with an increased odds of recent HCV antibody testing [4 studies; odds ratio (OR), 1.80; 95% CI:1.36, 2.39), HCV RNA testing among those who were HCV antibody positive (2 studies; OR, 1.83; 95% CI:1.27, 2.62), and DAA treatment uptake among those who were HCV RNA positive (7 studies; OR 1.53; 95% CI: 1.07, 2.20). There was insufficient evidence of an association between OAT and treatment completion (9 studies) or sustained virologic response following DAA therapy (9 studies).

Conclusions: Opioid agonist therapy can increase linkage to HCV care, including uptake of HCV testing and treatment among PWID. This supports the scale-up of OAT as part of strategies to enhance HCV treatment to further HCV elimination efforts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa612DOI Listing
May 2020

Progress towards elimination of hepatitis C infection among people who inject drugs in Australia: The ETHOS Engage Study.

Clin Infect Dis 2020 May 18. Epub 2020 May 18.

The Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Background & Aims: Evaluating progress towards HCV elimination is critical. This study estimated prevalence of current HCV infection and HCV treatment uptake among people who inject drugs (PWID) in Australia.

Methods: ETHOS Engage is an observational study of PWID attending drug treatment clinics and needle and syringe programs (NSP). Participants completed a questionnaire including self-reported treatment history and underwent point-of-care HCV RNA testing (Xpert® HCV Viral Load Fingerstick).

Results: Between May 2018-September 2019, 1,443 participants were enrolled (64% injected drugs in the last month, 74% receiving opioid agonist therapy [OAT]). HCV infection status was uninfected (28%), spontaneous clearance (16%), treatment-induced clearance (32%), and current infection (24%). Current HCV was more likely among people who were homeless (adjusted odds ratio: 1.47; 95%CI: 1.00, 2.16), incarcerated in previous year (2.04; 1.38, 3.02), and those injecting drugs ≥daily (2.26; 1.43, 2.42). Among those with previous chronic or current HCV, 66% (n=520/788) reported HCV treatment. In adjusted analysis, HCV treatment was lower among females (0.68; 0.48, 0.95), participants who were homeless (0.59; 0.38, 0.96), and those injecting ≥daily (0.51; 0.31, 0.89). People aged ≥45 (1.46; 1.06, 2.01) and people receiving OAT (2.62; 1.52, 4.51) were more likely to report HCV treatment.

Conclusions: Unrestricted DAA access in Australia has yielded high treatment uptake among PWID attending drug treatment and NSPs, with a marked decline in HCV prevalence. To achieve elimination, PWID with greater marginalisation may require additional support and tailored strategies to enhance treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa571DOI Listing
May 2020

Assessment of Treatment Strategies to Achieve Hepatitis C Elimination in Canada Using a Validated Model.

JAMA Netw Open 2020 05 1;3(5):e204192. Epub 2020 May 1.

British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, Vancouver, Canada.

Importance: Achievement of the World Health Organization (WHO) target of eliminating hepatitis C virus (HCV) by 2030 will require an increase in key services, including harm reduction, HCV screening, and HCV treatment initiatives in member countries. These data are not available for Canada but are important for informing a national HCV elimination strategy.

Objective: To use a decision analytical model to explore the association of different treatment strategies with HCV epidemiology and HCV-associated mortality in Canada and to assess the levels of service increase needed to meet the WHO elimination targets by 2030.

Design, Setting, And Participants: Study participants in this decision analytical model included individuals with hepatitis C virus infection in Canada. Five HCV treatment scenarios (optimistic, very aggressive, aggressive, gradual decrease, and rapid decrease) were applied using a previously validated Markov-type mathematical model. The optimistic and very aggressive treatment scenarios modeled a sustained annual treatment of 10 200 persons and 14 000 persons, respectively, from 2018 to 2030. The aggressive, gradual decrease, and rapid decrease scenarios assessed decreases in treatment uptake from 14 000 persons to 10 000 persons per year, 12 000 persons to 8500 persons per year, and 12 000 persons to 4500 persons per year, respectively, between 2018 and 2030.

Main Outcomes And Measures: Hepatitis C virus prevalence and HCV-associated health outcomes were assessed for each of the 5 treatment scenarios with the goal of identifying strategies to achieve HCV elimination by 2030.

Results: An estimated mean 180 142 persons (95% CI, 122 786-196 862 persons) in Canada had chronic HCV infection at the end of 2017. The optimistic and gradual decrease scenarios estimated a decrease in HCV prevalence from 180 142 persons to 37 246 persons and 37 721 persons, respectively, by 2030. Relative to 2015, this decrease in HCV prevalence was associated with 74%, 69%, and 69% reductions in the prevalence of decompensated cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, and liver-associated mortality, respectively, leading to HCV elimination by 2030. More aggressive treatment uptake (very aggressive scenario) could result in goal achievement up to 3 years earlier than 2030, although a rapid decrease in the initiation of treatment (rapid decrease scenario) would preclude Canada from reaching the HCV elimination goal by 2030.

Conclusions And Relevance: The study findings suggest that Canada could meet the WHO goals for HCV elimination by 2030 by sustaining the current national HCV treatment rate during the next decade. This target will not be achieved if treatment uptake is allowed to decrease rapidly.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.4192DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7203608PMC
May 2020

Elbasvir and grazoprevir for hepatitis C virus genotype 1 infection in people with recent injecting drug use (DARLO-C): An open-label, single-arm, phase 4, multicentre trial.

Health Sci Rep 2020 Jun 15;3(2):e151. Epub 2020 Mar 15.

Viral Hepatitis Clinical Research Program The Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney Sydney Australia.

Background And Aims: Direct-acting antiviral therapy for hepatitis C virus (HCV) is effective, but few prospective studies among people with ongoing injecting drug use exist. This study evaluated the efficacy of elbasvir/grazoprevir in people with HCV genotype 1/4 (G1/4) infection and recent injecting drug use. An exploratory aim evaluated the feasibility of fingerstick point-of-care HCV RNA testing prior to and following treatment.

Methods: DARLO-C (http://clinicaltrials.gov: NCT02940691) is an open-label phase 4 trial. Participants were recruited between May 2017 and March 2018 from two drug treatment clinics, two hospital clinics, and one community clinic in Australia. Inclusion criteria included recent injection drug use (previous 6 months) and HCV G1/4 infection. Exclusion criteria included prior HCV treatment and decompensated liver disease. Participants received elbasvir/grazoprevir once-daily for 12 weeks. The primary endpoint was undetectable HCV RNA 12 weeks post-treatment (SVR). Fingerstick whole-blood samples were tested using the Xpert HCV Viral Load Fingerstick (Xpert HCV VL Fingerstick) assay and compared to the Aptima HCV Quant Dx Assay on plasma samples.

Results: Of a planned 150 participants, 32 were enrolled due to slower than anticipated recruitment [median age 46 years, 10 (31%) female, 29 (91%) G1a]. Eighteen (56%) were receiving opioid agonist therapy and 29 (91%) injected in the previous month. Twenty-six (81%) of 32 completed treatment (lost to follow-up, n = 5; incarceration, n = 1). There were no virological failures. Twenty-four (75%, 95% CI 59%-91%) of 32 achieved SVR. Two participants who completed treatment did not have SVR (loss to follow-up, n = 1; refused test, n = 1). Among paired samples (n = 36), sensitivity of the Xpert HCV VL Fingerstick assay for HCV RNA detection was 100.0% (95% CI 75.3%-100.0%) and specificity was 95.7% (95% CI 78.1%-99.9%).

Conclusion: Elbasvir/grazoprevir is effective among people with HCV G1 with recent injecting drug use. Implementation of point-of-care HCV RNA testing was feasible, but the high error rate requires investigation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/hsr2.151DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7136479PMC
June 2020

Estimated uptake of hepatitis C direct-acting antiviral treatment among individuals with HIV co-infection in Australia: a retrospective cohort study.

Sex Health 2020 06;17(3):223-230

The Kirby Institute, Wallace Wurth Building, UNSW Sydney, NSW 2051, Australia; and Corresponding author. Email:

Background Unrestricted access to direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapy for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection has been available in Australia since March 2016. Individuals with HIV-HCV co-infection are at a greater risk of liver fibrosis progression. This study estimated DAA treatment uptake among individuals with HIV-HCV co-infection, during the first year of DAA treatment access in Australia.

Methods: Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) data on dispensed DAA and antiretroviral therapy (ART) prescriptions from March 2016 to March 2017 were used for analysis.

Results: During March 2016 to March 2017, a total of 935 individuals with HIV-HCV co-infection were receiving ART and initiated DAA treatment, with 93% to 97% completing their prescribed course. Estimated DAA treatment uptake in the HIV-HCV-infected population was 41% (935/2290). Most were men (94%). Median age was 50 years. DAA treatment was initiated by specialists in 64% of cases (n = 602), and by general practitioners (GPs) in 25% of cases (n = 238). The proportion of individuals initiated on DAA by GPs increased from 20% in March-April 2016 to 26% in January-March 2017. Most specialists (77%) and GPs (72%) initiated DAA treatment for one to three patients. Among individuals initiated on DAA by GPs, 68% received their ART prescription from the same GP.

Conclusions: A high level of DAA treatment uptake and completion was observed among individuals with HIV-HCV co-infection during the first year of DAA treatment access. The proportion of individuals prescribed DAA by GPs increased over time; this is important for broadened access.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/SH19101DOI Listing
June 2020

Reinfection Following Successful Direct-acting Antiviral Therapy for Hepatitis C Virus Infection Among People Who Inject Drugs.

Clin Infect Dis 2021 04;72(8):1392-1400

The Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales Sydney, Sydney, Australia.

Background: The aim of this analysis was to calculate the incidence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) reinfection and associated factors among 2 clinical trials of HCV direct-acting antiviral treatment in people with recent injecting drug use or currently receiving opioid agonist therapy (OAT).

Methods: Participants who achieved an end-of-treatment response in 2 clinical trials of people with recent injecting drug use or currently receiving OAT (SIMPLIFY and D3FEAT) enrolled between March 2016 and February 2017 in 8 countries were assessed for HCV reinfection, confirmed by viral sequencing. Incidence was calculated using person-time of observation and associated factors were assessed using Cox proportional hazard models.

Results: Seventy-three percent of the population at risk of reinfection (n = 177; median age, 48 years; 73% male) reported ongoing injecting drug use. Total follow-up time at risk was 254 person-years (median, 1.8 years; range, 0.2-2.8 years). Eight cases of reinfection were confirmed for an incidence of 3.1/100 person-years (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.6-6.3) overall and 17.9/100 person-years (95% CI, 5.8-55.6) among those who reported sharing needles/syringes. Younger age and needle/syringe sharing were associated with HCV reinfection.

Conclusions: These data demonstrate the need for ongoing monitoring and improved strategies to prevent HCV reinfection following successful treatment among people with ongoing injecting drug use to achieve HCV elimination.

Clinical Trials Registration: NCT02336139 and NCT02498015.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciaa253DOI Listing
April 2021

Socio-demographic and ecological factors associated with anti-HCV prevalence in people who inject drugs: A systematic review.

Drug Alcohol Depend 2020 04 6;209:107899. Epub 2020 Feb 6.

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Sydney, 2052, Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Background: The World Health Organization (WHO) aim to eliminate hepatitis C virus (HCV) as a public health threat by 2030. People who inject drugs (PWID) are a key risk group for HCV transmission globally. We explored socio-demographic and ecological variables associated with HCV antibody (anti-HCV) prevalence among samples of PWID.

Methods: We systematically searched for and screened journal articles and online reports published between January 2011 and June 2017. Serologically confirmed anti-HCV prevalence among PWID and other study-level socio-demographic variables were extracted. Country-level ecological indicators were sourced from online databases. We used generalized linear models to investigate associations between anti-HCV prevalence estimates and other study-level and country-level variables.

Results: There were 223 studies from 84 countries contributing 569 estimates of anti-HCV prevalence among PWID. Among study-level indicators, higher levels of anti-HCV prevalence were associated with higher HIV prevalence (B = 0.20; 95 % Confidence Interval [95 %CI] = 0.12, 0.29, p < 0.001) and year of data collection (B=-0.08; 95 %CI=-0.15, -0.02; p = 0.011). At a national level, higher Human Development Index scores (B=4.37; 95 %CI=0.12, 8.63, p = 0.044) were associated with higher levels of anti-HCV in samples.

Implications: Serological surveillance data are increasingly available globally; however, there are still geographical gaps in quantification of HCV prevalence among PWID that must be addressed to inform efforts to achieve HCV elimination. Anti-HCV prevalence was lower in samples of PWID from countries with lower Human Development Index scores, which points to an opportunity to provide targeted intervention and potentially control transmission rates of infection in countries characterized by poor population health, education, and income.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2020.107899DOI Listing
April 2020

Global elimination of hepatitis C virus by 2030: why not?

Nat Med 2020 02;26(2):157-160

The Kirby Institute, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41591-019-0706-xDOI Listing
February 2020

Perceptions and concerns of hepatitis C reinfection following prison-wide treatment scale-up: Counterpublic health amid hepatitis C treatment as prevention efforts in the prison setting.

Int J Drug Policy 2020 03 8;77:102693. Epub 2020 Feb 8.

Centre for Social Research in Health, UNSW Sydney, Level 2, Goodsell Building, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia.

Background: Hepatitis C (HCV) infection is highly prevalent within the prison setting. Direct-acting antiviral (DAA) therapies have changed the HCV treatment landscape, offering simple treatment (with minimal side-effects) and high efficacy. These advances have enabled the first real-world study of HCV treatment as prevention (TasP), the Surveillance and Treatment of Prisoners with hepatitis C (SToP-C) study. This paper draws on data from qualitative interviews completed with SToP-C participants following prison-wide DAA treatment scale-up.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 23 men in prison following HCV treatment completion to identify ongoing risk practices, perceptions of strategies for HCV prevention within the prison setting, experiences of HCV treatment (as prevention), and perceptions of reinfection following cure. Analysis was undertaken using a counterpublic health lens to identify risks and perceptions of reinfection among people treated for HCV within the prison setting.

Results: Participants identified a number of challenges of meaningful HCV 'cure' in the absence of increased access to prevention strategies (e.g., opioid agonist therapy and prison needle syringe programs) along with concerns that 'cure' was only temporary whilst incarcerated. 'Cure' status included self-perceptions of being "clean", while also imposing responsibility on the individual to maintain their 'cure' status.

Conclusion: HCV DAA treatment is provided somewhat under the guise of 'cure is easy', but fails to address the ongoing risk factors experienced by people who inject drugs in prisons, as well as other people in prison who may be at risk of blood-to-blood exposure. Health messaging regarding HCV treatment and treatment for reinfection should be tailored to ensure patient-centred care. Health interventions in prison must address the whole person and the circumstances in which they live, not just the illness.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102693DOI Listing
March 2020

Time to Detection of Hepatitis C Virus Infection With the Xpert HCV Viral Load Fingerstick Point-of-Care Assay: Facilitating a More Rapid Time to Diagnosis.

J Infect Dis 2020 06;221(12):2043-2049

The Kirby Institute, UNSW, Sydney, Australia.

Background: Xpert HCV Viral Load Fingerstick assay (Xpert HCV VL FS) is a point-of-care test quantifying HCV RNA in <1 hour, enabling same-visit diagnosis and treatment.

Methods: This study evaluated time to HCV RNA detection using the Xpert HCV VL FS assay. Fingerstick whole-blood samples were collected from participants in an observational cohort in Australia.

Results: In May 2018-2019, 1468 participants were enrolled, 1426 had Xpert HCV VL FS testing performed, and 1386 had a valid result. HCV RNA was detected in 23% (325/1386). Among people with undetectable HCV RNA (n = 1061), median time to result was 57 minutes. Among people with detectable HCV RNA (n = 325), median time to HCV RNA detection was 32 minutes and 80% (261/325) had a detectable HCV RNA result in ≤40 minutes. Median time to HCV RNA detection was dependent on HCV RNA level.

Conclusions: A quicker HCV diagnosis could be achieved by monitoring the time when HCV RNA is first detected with the Xpert HCV VL FS test, rather than HCV RNA quantification, although the current platform does not allow for this. These findings could facilitate new strategies to reduce waiting times for an HCV diagnosis and improve linkage to treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jiaa037DOI Listing
June 2020

Global systematic review and ecological analysis of HIV in people who inject drugs: National population sizes and factors associated with HIV prevalence.

Int J Drug Policy 2020 03 14;77:102656. Epub 2020 Jan 14.

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales Sydney, Sydney 2052, NSW Australia.

Background: People who inject drugs (PWID) are at elevated risk of HIV infection. Data on population sizes of PWID living with HIV are needed to inform the implementation of prevention, treatment and care programs. We estimated national population sizes of people who recently (past 12 months) injected drugs living with HIV and evaluated ecological associations with HIV prevalence in PWID.

Methods: We used national data on the prevalence of injecting drug use and of HIV among PWID, derived from systematic reviews, to estimate national population sizes of PWID living with HIV. Uncertainty was estimated using Monte Carlo simulation with 100,000 draws. We extracted data on sample characteristics from studies of HIV prevalence among PWID, and identified national indicators that have been observed or hypothesised to be associated with HIV prevalence in PWID. We used linear regression to evaluate associations between these variables and HIV prevalence in PWID.

Results: Four countries comprised 55% of the estimated global population of PWID living with HIV: Russia (572,500; 95% uncertainty interval (UI) 235,500-1,036,500); Brazil (462,000; 95% UI 283,500-674,500); China (316,500; 95% UI 171,500-493,500), and the United States (195,500; 95% UI 80,000-343,000). Greater anti-HCV prevalence and national income inequality were associated with greater HIV prevalence in PWID.

Conclusion: The countries with the largest populations of PWID living with HIV will need to dramatically scale up prevention, treatment and care interventions to prevent further increases in population size. The association between anti-HCV prevalence and HIV prevalence among PWID corroborates findings that settings with increasing HCV should implement effective interventions to prevent HIV outbreaks. The association between income inequality and HIV among PWID reinforces the need to implement structural interventions alongside targeted individual-level strategies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.102656DOI Listing
March 2020

Global systematic review and ecological analysis of HIV in people who inject drugs: National population sizes and factors associated with HIV prevalence.

Int J Drug Policy 2020 03 14;77:102656. Epub 2020 Jan 14.

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales Sydney, Sydney 2052, NSW Australia.

Background: People who inject drugs (PWID) are at elevated risk of HIV infection. Data on population sizes of PWID living with HIV are needed to inform the implementation of prevention, treatment and care programs. We estimated national population sizes of people who recently (past 12 months) injected drugs living with HIV and evaluated ecological associations with HIV prevalence in PWID.

Methods: We used national data on the prevalence of injecting drug use and of HIV among PWID, derived from systematic reviews, to estimate national population sizes of PWID living with HIV. Uncertainty was estimated using Monte Carlo simulation with 100,000 draws. We extracted data on sample characteristics from studies of HIV prevalence among PWID, and identified national indicators that have been observed or hypothesised to be associated with HIV prevalence in PWID. We used linear regression to evaluate associations between these variables and HIV prevalence in PWID.

Results: Four countries comprised 55% of the estimated global population of PWID living with HIV: Russia (572,500; 95% uncertainty interval (UI) 235,500-1,036,500); Brazil (462,000; 95% UI 283,500-674,500); China (316,500; 95% UI 171,500-493,500), and the United States (195,500; 95% UI 80,000-343,000). Greater anti-HCV prevalence and national income inequality were associated with greater HIV prevalence in PWID.

Conclusion: The countries with the largest populations of PWID living with HIV will need to dramatically scale up prevention, treatment and care interventions to prevent further increases in population size. The association between anti-HCV prevalence and HIV prevalence among PWID corroborates findings that settings with increasing HCV should implement effective interventions to prevent HIV outbreaks. The association between income inequality and HIV among PWID reinforces the need to implement structural interventions alongside targeted individual-level strategies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.102656DOI Listing
March 2020

Frequency of injecting among people who inject drugs: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

Int J Drug Policy 2020 02 18;76:102619. Epub 2019 Dec 18.

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, 2052 New South Wales, Australia.

Background: People who inject drugs (PWID) do so at varying frequencies. More frequent injecting is associated with skin and soft tissue infection, blood borne viruses, and overdose. The aims of this review are to estimate the prevalence of injecting frequency among PWID and compare these estimates to current needle-syringe distribution coverage estimates, and identify socio-demographic and risk characteristics, and harms associated with daily or more injecting.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review of the peer-reviewed and grey literature from 2008 to 2018 and extracted needle-syringe distribution coverage data from a recent systematic review. We generated country-, region-, and global-level estimates of daily or more injecting. We also ran meta-regression analyses to determine associations between daily or more injecting and socio-demographic characteristics, injecting risk behaviour, non-fatal overdose, injection site skin infection, and blood borne virus prevalence.

Results: Our search resulted in 61,077 sources, from which 198 studies were eligible for inclusion in this review. There were 74 countries with estimates for injecting frequency. Globally, we estimated that 68.1% (95%CI 64.5-71.6%) of PWID, equating to approximately 10.5 (95% UI 6.8-15.0) million people, inject daily or more frequently. There was a higher percentage of participants reporting daily or more injecting among samples with shorter injecting careers, more male participants and higher reporting of opioids as their main drug injected. Daily or more injecting was also associated with samples reporting a higher prevalence of HIV and hepatitis C antibody (anti-HCV), non-fatal overdose, and receptive needle sharing in the previous month.

Implications: WHO recently recommended a needle-syringe distribution target of 300 needles per PWID per year which is unlikely to be sufficient for the majority of PWID injecting daily or more who are out of drug treatment.

Funding: The Australian National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, University of New South Wales.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.102619DOI Listing
February 2020