Nearly one fourth of individuals with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection have hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in the US and Western Europe. With the availability of highly active antiretroviral therapy and the consequent reduction in opportunistic infections, resulting in the prolongation of the life span of HIV-infected patients, HCV co-infection has emerged as a significant factor influencing the survival of HIV patients. Patients with HIV/HCV co-infection have a faster rate of fibrosis progression resulting in more frequent occurrences of cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease, and hepatocellular carcinoma. However, the mechanism of interaction between the two viruses is not completely understood. The treatment for HCV in co-infected patients is similar to that of HCV mono-infection; i.e., a combination of pegylated interferon and ribavirin. The presence of any barriers to anti-HCV therapy should be identified and eliminated in order to recruit all eligible patients. The response to treatment in co-infected patients is inferior compared to the response in patients with HCV mono-infection. The sustained virologic response rate is only 38% for genotype-1 and 75% for genotype-2 and -3 infections. Liver transplantation is no longer considered a contraindication for end-stage liver disease in co-infected patients. However, the 5 year survival rate is lower in co-infected patients compared to patients with HCV mono-infection (33% vs 72%, P = 0.07). A better understanding of liver disease in co-infected patients is needed to derive new strategies for improving outcome and survival.
Keywords: Hepatitis C virus, Human immunodeficiency virus, Coinfection, Pegylated interferon, Ribavirin