People who inject drugs are at high risk of acquiring hepatitis B (HBV), hepatitis C (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) due to risky injection and sexual practices. The objective of this study is to investigate the epidemiology of HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C, and co-infection of these viruses among people who inject drugs in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
We used respondent-driven sampling to identify 408 participants, from whom we collected demographic data, information on sexual behaviours and injection drug practices, and blood samples for biological testing.
Prevalence of hepatitis B surface antigenaemia, HCV, and HIV infection were 5.9, 25.4, and 11.3%, respectively. Of the participants who were hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) positive, 33.5% were infected with HCV and 18.8% were infected with HIV. Of the HCV-infected participants, 29.3% were infected with HIV. Of the participants who were infected with HIV, 9.0% were HBsAg positive, 66.6% had HCV and 8.5% had both. None of the potential risk factors we measured were associated with HBsAg positivity. In contrast, older age and longer duration of injection drug use were independently associated with HCV infection. HCV infection among people who inject drugs is lower in Zanzibar than in other countries, but could rise without proper interventions.
These findings underscore the importance of screening people who inject drugs for HIV, HBsAg, and HCV; providing HBV vaccination to those who are eligible; initiating antiretroviral therapy for those who are co-infected with HIV/HBV and HIV/HCV; and introducing interventions that have high impact on reducing needle sharing.