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Over quarter of Los Angeles' homeless adults have hepatitis C, study shows

(Xinhua)

08:59, June 13, 2012

WASHINGTON, June 12 (Xinhua) -- About 26.7 percent of homeless adults tested and surveyed in downtown Los Angeles' skid row were infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) -- more than 10 times the two percent rate among the general U.S. population, according to a study to be published in the July-August issue of Public Health Reports.

Of those surveyed, 46.1 percent were unaware that they were infected and four percent of the sample were HIV-positive, according to researchers from University of California, Los Angeles.

The study surveyed 534 homeless adults from 41 shelters and meal programs in the skid row area between June 2003 and February 2004. Most were males and the majority were African Americans. Each was tested for hepatitis B and C and for HIV. Overall, the researchers found that HCV prevalence was significantly higher among those homeless individuals who had injected drugs or been in prison; who were 40 years of age and older; who had less education; or who were U.S.-born.

"This and previous studies demonstrate that urban homeless adults in the U.S. are at high risk for HCV infection," the researchers concluded. "About half of those infected with HCV were unaware of their infection status. Homeless adults need interventions that include HCV education, counseling, voluntary testing and treatment services."

Recent U.S. government studies show that hepatitis C, which can destroy the liver and necessitate a liver transplant, now kills more American adults than AIDS.

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