Surveillance and outbreak reports Open Access
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During the last decade, outbreaks of acute hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection have been reported among human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected men who have sex with men (MSM) in several European countries. To study this emerging infection in MSM in Antwerp, Belgium, we reviewed all cases of newly acquired HCV infection in HIV-positive MSM followed from 2001 to 2009 at the HIV/sexually transmitted infection (STI) reference clinic of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp. Newly acquired HCV infection was considered as certain or probable according to local definitions. During the study period, 69 episodes of newly acquired HCV infection (40 certain and 29 probable) were diagnosed in 67 HIV-infected MSM. In only 10 episodes (14%) were the patients symptomatic. The annual incidence of HCV infection in our population of HIV-infected MSM rose steadily from 0.2% in 2001 to 1.51% in 2008, and then peaked to 2.9% in 2009. For 60 episodes (87%), another STI (mainly syphilis and lymphogranuloma venereum) had been diagnosed within the six months before the diagnosis of HCV infection. All but one patient with available genotyping (n=54) were found to be infected with the difficult-to-treat HCV genotypes 1 or 4. Our results therefore demonstrate the rising incidence of HCV infection in HIV-positive MSM in Antwerp, since 2001, which reached an alarming level in 2009. Targeted awareness campaigns and routine screening are urgently needed to limit further HCV spread and its expected long-term consequences.


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