HCV/HIV co-infection is a major public health problem with between 10-25% of HIV-positive individuals infected with HCV. Following the introduction of effective HIV therapies, HCV has become a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the HIV population. Since the early 2000s, there has been a marked rise in the diagnosis of acute HCV in HIV-positive populations. Cohorts have been reported in Europe, USA and Australia. Molecular studies have revealed multiple HCV variants circulating within the HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM) population. There is also evidence of a large international transmission network, particularly in Europe. Significantly, permucosal rather than percutaneous risk factors related to high-risk traumatic sexual and drug factors have been associated with transmission. This has important implications for public health interventions aimed at mitigating the spread of HCV. HIV also impacts the early cell-mediated immunological responses to HCV, leading to higher rates of persistence. Data now exists supporting early treatment of these individuals with combination pegylated interferon and ribavirin. This epidemic has come about as a result of significant change in patient behavioural risk factors and these factors need to be the focus of a concerted effort on the part of public health specialist, clinicians and HIV-positive individuals themselves at a national and international level. Acute HCV in HIV-positive individuals differs significantly from acute HCV mono-infection in its epidemiology, natural history, immunology and virology and is becoming an increasingly significant problem in the HIV community. This will be the focus of this review article.
Keywords: HIV, HCV, acute, epidemiology, transmission, natural history, interferon
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