Background: Few studies of the prevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection have focussed on women who work as street sex workers to finance their drug use. Methods: The investigators report the survey findings of such a population in Glasgow. All women attending the health and social care drop-in centre, situated in Glasgow's "Red Light Area", during a four-week period in 1999 were invited to participate in a survey involving theprovision of a saliva sample for anonymous HCV testing and the self-completion of a questionnaire seeking demographic, sexual and injecting practice data. Of the 223 women who attended, 51% agreed to participate. Of the 98 women who provided a sufficient saliva sample, 64% (95% CI: 54%-74%) tested HCV antibody positive; 98% of those who tested positive had ever injected drugs. Adjusting for the 85% sensitivity of the saliva test, the HCV antibody prevalence among IDU sex workers sampled was 81%; a rate which is considerably higher than those recorded, contemporaneously, among Glasgow IDUs generally. Two factors were independently associated with HCV antibody positivity in saliva: ever shared needles and syringes (adjusted OR 5.7, 95% CI 2-16) and number of times imprisoned (adjusted OR 7.3, 95% CI 1.4-39, for more than five times compared to zero times). Women who engage in street sex work to finance their drug habit are a particularly desperate, chaotic and vulnerable population. This study demonstrates that their HCV infection risk may be greater than that for other IDUs. Those responsible for designing interventions to prevent HCV infection among IDUs should consider the special needs of this group.
- hepatitis C
- sex workers