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Assessment of Tennessee’s county-level vulnerability to hepatitis C virus and HIV outbreaks using socioeconomic, healthcare, and substance use indicators

PLoS One. 2022 Aug 4;17(8):e0270891. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0270891. eCollection 2022.


BACKGROUND: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and injection drug use are syndemic in the central Appalachian states. In Tennessee (TN), declines in HIV among persons who inject drugs (PWID) stalled, and HCV infection rates increased significantly from 2013-2017. To better target strategies to address the syndemic, county-level socioeconomic, opioid use, access to healthcare, and health factors were modeled to identify indicators predictive of vulnerability to an HIV/HCV outbreak among PWID in TN.

METHODS: Newly reported chronic HCV cases among persons aged 13-39 years in 2016-2017 were used as a proxy for county-level HIV/HCV vulnerability among TN’s 95 counties. Seventy-five publicly available county-level measures from 2016-2017 were collected and reduced through multiple dimension reduction techniques. Negative binomial regression identified indicators associated with HCV which were used to calculate county-level vulnerability to a local HIV/HCV outbreak.

RESULTS: Thirteen county-level indicators were identified as strongly predictive of HIV/HCV vulnerability with the statistically significant indicators being percentage of the population aged 20-44 years, per capita income, teen birth rate, percentage of clients in TDMHSAS-funded opioid treatment and recovery, syphilis case rate, and percentage of homes with at least one vehicle. Based on the 13 indicators, we identified the distribution of vulnerability to an HIV/HCV outbreak among TN’s counties. Eleven high vulnerability counties were identified, with the preponderance located in east and middle TN.

CONCLUSION: This analysis identified the county-level factors most associated with vulnerability to an HIV/HCV outbreak among PWID in TN. These results, alongside routine surveillance, will guide targeted prevention and linkage to care efforts for the most vulnerable communities.

PMID:35925969 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0270891

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