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Pumping Iron, Risking Infection? Exposure to Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B and HIV Among Anabolic-Androgenic Steroid Injectors in Victoria, Australia

NCJ Number
Drug and Alcohol Dependence Volume: 65 Issue: 3 Dated: February 1, 2002 Pages: 303-308
Campbell Aitken; Cheryl Delalande; Kay Stanton
Date Published
6 pages
This study examined exposure to the hepatitis C and B viruses and HIV among steroid injectors in Australia.
People who inject illicit performance-enhancing drugs, such as anabolic-androgenic steroids, have been largely neglected in research on blood-borne virus transmissions. There are grounds to believe that steroid injectors are at risk of infection, although probably less than users of heroin, amphetamines, and other drugs. Participants for this study were recruited principally through the Steroid Peer Education Program (SPEP), which has one outreach worker that delivers injecting equipment, referral services, and health information to steroid injectors throughout metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria. Blood specimens were screened for blood-borne viruses. Due to the small number of steroid injectors studied, caution must be used in interpreting study results. This is the first report of multiple exposures to hepatitis C virus in a group of steroid injectors. Hepatitis C virus exposure was at significantly lower prevalence than normally found among people who inject other drugs. Risk factors for hepatitis C virus exposure in this group were unrelated to steroid use; association of exposure with past injection of heroin, needle-sharing, and imprisonment reinforces the primacy of these factors in the hepatitis C epidemic among drug injectors. Infrequent needle-sharing and intra-muscular injecting may greatly reduce the risk of hepatitis C virus transmission among steroid injectors relative to other injecting drug users, but risks posed by environmental contamination may be greater. Hepatitis C-exposed participants reported various behaviors that could spread the virus to other steroid injectors. Steroid injectors should be offered or informed about hepatitis B vaccination, and should not be neglected in other efforts to reduce blood-borne virus prevalence among drug injectors. 3 tables, 23 references


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