Transitions to Injecting and Risk of Hepatitis C Transmission among Ethnic Vietnamese Heroin Smokers in Melbourne, Australia

AUTHORS

Peter Higgs 1 , * , Jenny Kelsall 2 , Quoc Cuong Nguyen 3

1 The Burnet Institute Centre for Epidemiology & Population Health Research, [email protected], Australia

2 VIVAIDS, The Victorian Drug User Group, Australia

3 Department of Epidemiology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA

How to Cite: Higgs P, Kelsall J, Nguyen Q. Transitions to Injecting and Risk of Hepatitis C Transmission among Ethnic Vietnamese Heroin Smokers in Melbourne, Australia, Hepat Mon. Online ahead of Print ; 8(2):115-120.

ARTICLE INFORMATION

Hepatitis Monthly: 8 (2); 115-120
Article Type: Research Article
Received: March 12, 2008
Accepted: June 2, 2008

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Abstract

Background and Aims: To examine factors associated with transition from non-injecting to injecting routes of drug administration and testing antibody positive to hepatitis C virus (HCV) among ethnic Vietnamese heroin users in Melbourne, Australia.

Methods: In a cross-sectional convenience survey, sample recruited by peer-workers using snowball sampling technique with a finger prick blood collection. Two-hundred ethnic Vietnamese heroin users were recruited and interviews conducted mainly in Footscray, an area of high ethnic Vietnamese residency with a prominent street based drug market. A structured questionnaire was administered. Measures included patterns of drug use, transition from smoking to injecting and vice versa, injection related risk behaviours and HCV sero-status.

Results: Ninety-three percent of the sample commenced drug use by non-injecting routes of administration. More than a half had made the transition from smoking to injecting and almost two thirds of participants had ever injected. The factors associated with making this transition included being male and a longer duration of use. Prevalence of exposure to HCV among injectors was over 50%. Factors associated with being HCV positive were longer duration of injecting, sharing injecting equipment and being older.

Conclusions: Smoking heroin is a common route of drug administration among heroin users of Vietnamese ethnicity in this study. The transition from smoking to injecting was very common in the sample. The need for targeted harm reduction initiatives is indicated, and these must take into account patterns of heroin use as well as the social context of drug use if we are to work effectively with heroin users of Vietnamese ethnicity.

Keywords

Hepatitis C Injecting Drug Use Inhalation Social Environment

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