Hepatitis C is transmitted by unprotected sex between HIV-infected men

July 21, 2011

Sexual transmission of hepatitis C virus (HCV) is considered rare. But a new study by researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), provides substantial evidence that men with HIV who have sex with other men (MSM) are at increased risk for contracting HCV through sex.

The results of the study are published in today's edition of the CDC's .

HCV transmission primarily occurs through exposure to blood, and persons who inject drugs at greatest risk. But when Mount Sinai researchers observed a large increase in the number of new cases of HCV transmission among HIV-infected men who did not inject drugs, they took a closer look to examine the role of sexual transmission among these men.

The researchers identified 74 HIV-infected men between October 2005 and December 2010 who had documented new and yet reported no other risk factor for HCV infection, including injection drug use. When they compared 22 of these men with a control group of 53 closely matched HIV-infected MSM who did not have HCV infection, they found that the men who had recently contracted HCV were 23 times more likely to have had unprotected anal sex with men. In addition, HCV genetic analysis suggested that HCV was transmitted within social networks of these men, consistent with the presence of a city-wide epidemic.

"While is rarely transmitted among stable , this is clearly not the case among HIV-infected MSM in New York City," said Dr. Daniel Fierer, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "MSM, and to some extent their are generally not aware that having unprotected receptive sex can result in HCV infection. The good news is that the cure rate for new HCV infections is very high with early treatment, but without regular testing of the men at risk, these largely asymptomatic infections may be missed and this opportunity lost."

"Our study suggests that HIV-infected MSM should take steps to protect themselves and others by using condoms. Also, health care providers should be screening these men for hepatitis C, and public education and outreach programs should include information about these risks," Dr. Fierer concluded.

Explore further: Different HIV rates among gay men and straight people not fully explained by sexual behavior

Related Stories

Shared Crack Pipes May Spread Hepatitis C Virus

December 12, 2007

A new study by the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research (CARBC) suggests that the Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) could possibly be passed on between crack smokers who share pipes. As the vast majority of new ...

Recommended for you

Team makes Zika drug breakthrough

August 29, 2016

A team of researchers from Florida State University, Johns Hopkins University and the National Institutes of Health has found existing drug compounds that can both stop Zika from replicating in the body and from damaging ...

Zika virus may persist in the vagina days after infection

August 25, 2016

The Zika virus reproduces in the vaginal tissue of pregnant mice several days after infection, according to a study by Yale researchers. From the genitals, the virus spreads and infects the fetal brain, impairing fetal development. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.