Women in the 2019 hepatitis C cascade of care: findings from the British Columbia Hepatitis Testers cohort study Pearce, Margo; Bartlett, Sofia; Yu, Amanda; Lamb, Jess; Reitz, Cheryl; Wong, Stanley; Álvarez María; Binka, Mawuena; Velásquez Garcia, Héctor A.; Jeong, Dahn; et al.
Background Women living with hepatitis C virus (HCV) are rarely addressed in research and may be overrepresented within key populations requiring additional support to access HCV care and treatment. We constructed the HCV care cascade among people diagnosed with HCV in British Columbia, Canada, as of 2019 to compare progress in care and treatment and to assess sex/gender gaps in HCV treatment access. Methods The BC Hepatitis Testers Cohort includes 1.7 million people who tested for HCV, HIV, reported cases of hepatitis B, and active tuberculosis in BC from 2000 to 2019. Test results were linked to medical visits, hospitalizations, cancers, prescription drugs, and mortality data. Six HCV care cascade stages were identified: (1) antibody diagnosed; (2) RNA tested; (3) RNA positive; (4) genotyped; (5) initiated treatment; and (6) achieved sustained virologic response (SVR). HCV care cascade results were assessed for women, and an ‘inverse’ cascade was created to assess gaps, including not being RNA tested, genotyped, or treatment initiated, stratified by sex. Results In 2019, 52,638 people with known sex were anti-HCV positive in BC; 37% (19,522) were women. Confirmatory RNA tests were received by 86% (16,797/19,522) of anti-HCV positive women and 83% (27,353/33,116) of men. Among people who had been genotyped, 68% (6756/10,008) of women and 67% (12,640/18,828) of men initiated treatment, with 94% (5023/5364) of women and 92% (9147/9897) of men achieving SVR. Among the 3252 women and 6188 men not yet treated, higher proportions of women compared to men were born after 1975 (30% vs. 21%), had a mental health diagnosis (42% vs. 34%) and had used injection drugs (50% vs. 45%). Among 1619 women and 2780 men who had used injection drugs and were not yet treated, higher proportions of women than men used stimulants (64% vs. 57%), and opiates (67% vs. 60%). Conclusions Women and men appear to be equally engaged into the HCV care cascade; however, women with concurrent social and health conditions are being left behind. Treatment access may be improved with approaches that meet the needs of younger women, those with mental health diagnoses, and women who use drugs.
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