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September 26, 2002

Injection Drug Users Rarely Change Habits After Diagnosis with Hepatitis C

The majority of injection drug users with hepatitis C continue to share needles and other drug paraphernalia even after learning of their diagnosis and receiving education, according to a study by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the New York Academy of Medicine, and Columbia University. The study is published in the October 1, 2002, issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases and was reported by It suggests that risk reduction education may only have a limited benefit.  

The study found that just 17 percent of injection drug users decreased their sharing needles after being diagnosed with hepatitis C and about 15 percent decreased their frequency of "back loading," which is the process of using a syringe to inject drugs into another syringe. In contrast, nearly 35 percent of the study participants reported either increasing or not changing their needle sharing after learning of their hepatitis C status and 76 percent said they increased or did not change their frequency of back loading.

"This study indicates that testing and counseling for hepatitis C infection is clearly not enough to generate significant behavior changes", reported Steffanie Strathdee, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She led the study with Danielle Ompad, PhD, MHS, a graduate student at the School, and other colleagues. "These findings underscore the need for enhanced behavioral interventions and increased access to HCV treatment for HCV-infected drug users, in order to thwart continued transmission of hepatitis C," explained Dr. Strathdee. Nearly 4 million persons in the U.S. and 170 million persons worldwide have been infected with the hepatitis C virus.

Crystal M. Fuller, David Vlahov, and David Thomas also contributed to the study "Lack of Behavior Change after Disclosure of Hepatitis C Virus Infection among Young Injection Drug Users in Baltimore, Maryland." article

Clinical Infectious Diseases

Public Affairs Media Contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Tim Parsons or Kenna Brigham @ 410-955-6878 or