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HCV incidence is associated with injecting partner age and HCV serostatus mixing in young adults who inject drugs in San Francisco



HCV incidence is increasing in the US, notably among younger people who inject drugs (PWID). In a cohort of young adult (age<30 years) PWID in San Francisco we examined whether 'injecting partner mixing' factors, i.e. age of partner and knowledge of their HCV serostatus, were associated with HCV transmission.


In 448 susceptible PWID studied prospectively. All participants were asked to report characteristics and behaviors they engaged in with up to 3 injecting partners defined as "people whom you injected the most with" in the past month". These partnerships did not specify that drugs or injecting equipment was shared. HCV incidence was estimated by age of up to 3 injecting partners, categorized as: (i) all <30; (ii) mixed-age (<&≥30); and (iii) all ≥30 years and perceived knowledge of the HCV status of participants' injecting partners' HCV status. Interaction was evaluated between partnership age categories and perceived HCV status of partners.


Between 2006-2018, overall HCV incidence (/100 person years observation [pyo]) was 19.4 (95% CI: 16.4, 22.9). Incidence was highest in those with mixed-age partnerships: 28.5 (95% CI: 21.8, 37.1) and those whose partners were all <30 (23.9; 95% CI: 18.8, 30.4), and lowest if partners were ≥30 (7.5; 95% CI: 4.8, 11.8). In a multivariable analyses adjusting for age, sex (of index), injection frequency, and injection partnership 'monogamy', we found evidence for an interaction: the highest HCV incidence was seen in PWID whose partners were all <30 and who knew at least one of their partners was HCV-positive (58.9, 95% CI: 43.3, 80.0; p<0.01).


Younger injectors are more likely to acquire HCV from their similarly-aged peers, than older injecting partners. Protective seroadaptive behavior may contribute to reduce incidence. These findings can inform new HCV prevention approaches for young PWID needed to curb the HCV epidemic.

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