The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend screening individuals at risk for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. However, few published data describe outcomes of individuals with antibody to HCV (anti-HCV) identified through screening programs. The purpose of this study was to assess rates of medical evaluation and HCV treatment, change in alcohol consumption, and barriers to medical care after testing anti-HCV positive through a public screening program.
Anti-HCV positive individuals identified through San Diego sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinics and an HIV test site screening program were informed of positive test results, provided education and referral, and contacted by telephone three, six, and ≥12 months later.
From September 1, 1999, to December 31, 2001, 411 anti-HCV positive individuals were newly identified, of whom 286 (70%) could be contacted ≥ three months after receipt of test results (median length [range] of follow-up 14 [3–35] months). Of these 286, 156 (55%) reported having received a medical evaluation, of whom 19 (12%) began HCV treatment. Of 132 who reported drinking alcohol before diagnosis, 100 (76%) reported drinking less after diagnosis. Individuals with medical insurance at diagnosis were more likely than those without insurance to obtain a medical evaluation during follow-up (75 [68%] of 111 vs. 70 [45%] of 155; p<0.001). Among those who did not obtain an evaluation, the most commonly reported reason was lack of insurance.
Only about half of newly identified anti-HCV positive individuals received a medical evaluation, although 76% reported drinking less alcohol. Identifying ways to improve medical access for those who are anti-HCV positive could improve the effectiveness of screening programs.