Hepatitis C and HIV incidence and harm reduction program use in a conflict setting: An observational cohort of injecting drug users in Kabul, Afghanistan

Catherine S. Todd, Abdul Nasir, Mohammad Raza Stanekzai, Katja Fiekert, Heather L. Sipsma, David Vlahov, Steffanie A. Strathdee

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Background: Armed conflict may increase the risk of HIV and other pathogens among injecting drug users (IDUs); however, there are few prospective studies. This study aimed to measure incidence and potential predictors, including environmental events and needle and syringe distribution and collection program (NSP) use, of hepatitis C virus (HCV) and HIV among IDUs in Kabul, Afghanistan. Methods: Consenting adult IDUs completed interviews quarterly in year 1 and semi-annually in year 2 and HCV and HIV antibody testing semi-annually through the cohort period (November 2007-December 2009). Interviews detailed injecting and sexual risk behaviors, NSP service use, and conflict-associated displacement. Quarters with peak conflict or local displacement were identified based on literature review, and key events, including insurgent attacks and deaths, were reported with simple counts. Incidence and predictors of HCV and HIV were measured with Cox proportional hazards models. Results: Of 483 IDUs enrolled, 385 completed one or more follow-up visits (483.8 person-years (p-y)). All participants were male with a median age of 28 years and a median duration of injecting of 2 years. Reported NSP use among the participants ranged from 59.9 to 70.5 % in the first year and was 48.4 and 55.4 % at 18 and 24 months, respectively. There were 41 confirmed deaths, with a crude death rate of 93.4/1000 p-y (95 % confidence interval (CI) 67.9-125) and overdose as the most common cause. HCV and HIV incidence were 35.6/100 p-y (95 % CI 28.3-44.6) and 1.5/100 p-y (95 % CI 0.6-3.3), respectively. Changing from injecting to smoking was protective for HCV acquisition (adjusted hazard ratio (AHR) = 0.53, 95 % CI 0.31-0.92), while duration of injecting (AHR = 1.09, 95 % CI 1.01-1.18/year) and sharing syringes (AHR = 10.09, 95 % CI 1.01-100.3) independently predicted HIV infection. Conclusion: There is high HCV incidence and high numbers of reported deaths among male Kabul IDUs despite relatively consistent levels of harm reduction program use; peak violence periods did not independently predict HCV and HIV risk. Programming should increase awareness of HCV transmission and overdose risks, prepare clients for harm reduction needs during conflict or other causes of displacement, and continue efforts to engage community and police force support.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article number22
    JournalHarm reduction journal
    Volume12
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Oct 16 2015

      Fingerprint

    Keywords

    • Afghanistan
    • Armed conflict
    • HIV
    • Harm reduction
    • Hepatitis C virus
    • Injecting drug use

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Medicine (miscellaneous)
    • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
    • Psychiatry and Mental health

    Cite this