Research in Brief: Study Sheds Light on HIV, Hepatitis C Prevalence in China

JULY 9, 2014 - A new study co-authored by a Georgetown University social epidemiologist looks at the prevalence of HIV and hepatitis C in Butuo County, located in China’s Sichuan province.

Z. Jennifer Huang, PhD, MPH, MBBS, the Susan H. Mayer Professor in Health Equity and an associate professor of international health at the School of Nursing & Health Studies, served as one of the study’s two lead authors.

The piece, “The Impact of Social Factors on Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Hepatitis C Virus Co-Infection in a Minority Region of Si-Chuan, the People's Republic of China: A Population-Based Survey and Testing Study,” appeared online July 2 in PLOS ONE.

Deeper Understanding

To gain a better understanding of HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) prevalence and related risk factors within the region, the investigators implemented a study in 2009 that included a survey, a physical exam, and an HIV and HCV test.

More than 10,100 residents were enrolled, and close to 9,180 blood samples were collected.  Among the findings reported in the article:

  • The respective rates of HIV, HCV, and HIV/HCV co-infection were 11.4 percent, 14.0 percent, and 7.7 percent for residents older than 14 years of age.
  • Residents between the ages of 25-34 experienced the highest prevalence of HIV/HCV, and HIV/HCV co-infection – 24.4 percent, 26.2 percent, and 16 percent respectively.
  • Men had a much higher prevalence than women in all categories.
  • About 49 percent of intravenous drug users tested positive for HIV, and approximately 68 percent tested positive for HCV.

Education and Awareness

“HIV and HCV prevalence in the Liangshan region is very serious and drug use, multiple sexual partners, and low education levels were the three main risk factors,” the authors conclude.  “The government should focus on improving education and personal health awareness while enhancing drug control programs.”

Among the numerous co-authors are international health alumna Maria Martin (NHS’10), who is pursuing a medical degree at Ohio State University College of Medicine, and Caiting Dong, PhD, who worked with Huang on this project as a post-doctoral fellow at Georgetown.  The authors report no competing interests.

By Bill Cessato