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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
CANADA: British Columbia Study Says Residential School

February 17, 2010
Guelph Mercury (02.11.10) - Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A recently published study found high rates of hepatitis C infection among aboriginal illicit drug users ages 14-30 in British Columbia. One of the significant risk factors linked to infection was historical: injecting drug users who had at least one parent forced to attend a residential school.

Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Cedar Project is a long-term study of HIV and hepatitis rates among young drug-using aborigines in British Columbia. The project's Patricia Spittal, of the University of British Columbia, and colleagues surveyed 512 youths from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and the northern city Prince George. Of participants, 34.8 percent were positive for hepatitis C virus infection, and among the 268 reporting injection drug use (IDU), 59.4 percent were HCV-positive. HCV prevalence among participants was 34.5 percent in Prince George and 35.0 percent in Vancouver.

"Given that Vancouver has consistently been described as an epicenter of the HIV and [hepatitis C] epidemics in British Columbia and Canada since the early 1980s, these findings indicate that the faces of these epidemics are changing," said Spittal. "Harm-reduction programming [and] trauma-driven addiction care must be resourced for the north because we often just presume that everything happens just in the Downtown Eastside, but it's just not the case because there are little Downtown Eastsides all over the province." Among injecting drug users, risk factors significantly associated with HCV infection included daily opiate injection (adjusted odds ratio 2.7, 95 percent confidence interval 1.0- 7.4), reuse of syringes (AOR 2.4, 95 percent CI 1.3-4.4), having at least one parent who attended residential school (AOR 1.9, 95 percent CI 1.1-3.4), female sex (AOR 1.9, 95 percent CI 1.1-3.4), and duration of drug use (per year) (AOR 1.4, 95 percent CI 1.3-1.5).

"The crude incidence rate of HCV infection was 10.6 percent and the incidence density estimate was 9.9 per 100 person- years in this cohort," the researchers reported. The full report, "Prevalence and Incidence of Hepatitis C Virus Infection Among Aboriginal Young People Who Use Drugs: Results from the Cedar Project," was published in Open Medicine (2009;3(4):e220-227).

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