Few studies have examined gender-based differences in the risk of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among street-involved youth. We compared rates of HCV infection among male and female street-involved youth in a Canadian setting.
The At-Risk Youth Study is a prospective cohort of drug-using street-involved youth. Study recruitment and follow-up occurred in Vancouver, Canada, between September 2005 and November 2011. Eligible participants were illicit drug–using youth aged 14–26 years at enrollment, recruited by street-based outreach. We evaluated rates of HCV antibody seroconversion, measured every 6 months during study follow-up, and used Cox proportional hazards regression to compare risk factors for HCV incidence between male and female street youth.
Among 512 HCV-seronegative youth contributing 836 person-years of follow-up, 56 (10.9%) seroconverted to HCV. Among female participants, the incidence density of HCV infection was 10.9 per 100 person-years, and in males, it was 5.1 per 100 person-years (p = .009). In multivariate analyses, female gender was independently associated with a higher rate of HCV seroconversion (adjusted hazard ratio, 2.01; 95% confidence interval, 1.18–3.44). Risk factors were similar in gender-stratified analyses and included heroin injection and crystal methamphetamine injection, although syringe sharing was only associated with HCV incidence among males.
Among street-involved youth in this setting, females had double the incidence of HCV seroconversion demonstrating the need for gender-focused HCV prevention interventions for this population.