A Reflective Analysis of HCV Infection via Sexual Exposure

By: Marcus Hopkins, HEAL blogger

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After sharing my last blog post with some of my colleagues, one of my most respected peers, Professor Kreyenbuhl-Gardner, brought to my attention something that has been largely overlooked in my previous postings: HCV is inefficiently transmitted via sexual exposure.

One of the primary foci of HEAL Blog is HIV/HCV co-infection, and over the past few months, I’ve covered the rising rate of new HCV infections in younger demographic groups in correlation with an increase in those groups’ seeming willingness to take more and more sexual risks (i.e. – having sex without using condoms).

Now, this information does come with some caveats:

  1. While HCV transmission via sexual exposure is rare, recent data indicate that sexual transmission of HCV can occur, especially among HIV-infected persons.  In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reported that surveillance data demonstrated that 10% of persons with acute HCV infection report contact with a known HCV-infected sex partner as their only exposure.
  2. There has been a slight increase in new infections related to sexual exposure – and it must be noted that this is a very slight increase – within sex partners with sero-discordant HCV status.

There’s little evidence that HCV transmission via sexual transmission will become the norm; at this time, it appears that the vast majority of new HCV infections will continue to occur via intravenous drug use.

What is notable is that, regardless of the means of transmission, there have been marked increases in the rate of infection in the age ranges between 19-39.  Whether this is directly related to transmission from intravenous drug use or sexual transmission is unclear.  That said, it is clear that this increase merits greater outreach efforts to this demographic.

While my colleague is correct that HCV is inefficiently transmitted, that does not mean we should not continue to educate people about smart sexual practices, certainly not when both HAV and HBV are both easily transmitted via sexual contact.

Disclaimer: HEAL Blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the Community Access National Network (CANN), but rather they provide a neutral platform whereby the author serves to promote open, honest discussion about Hepatitis-related issues and updates.


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One response to “A Reflective Analysis of HCV Infection via Sexual Exposure

  1. Pingback: HCV Infection Conundrum: Steaming the spread of new infections resulting from drug abuse | communityaccessnationalnetwork

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