Background: The evidence that HIV treatment as prevention (TasP) and HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) reduces the risk of HIV transmission is overwhelming. But as PrEP and TasP can lead to increased sexual mixing between HIV positive and negative men who have sex with men (MSM), sexually transmitted infections such as acute hepatitis C (HCV), which were thought to be limited to HIV-infected MSM, could become more frequent in HIV uninfected MSM as well. The objective of this study was to describe a series of cases of sexually transmitted HCV infections in HIV-uninfected MSM in the Netherlands and Belgium.
Methods: Through the Dutch Acute HCV in HIV Study (a Dutch-Belgian prospective multicentre study on the treatment of acute HCV infection, NCT02600325) and the Be-PrEP-ared study (a PrEP project in Antwerp, EudraCT2015-000054-37) several acute HCV infections were detected in HIV-negative men.
Results: A newly acquired HCV infection was diagnosed in ten HIV-negative MSM. HCV was diagnosed at a sexually transmitted infection (STI) clinic (n = 2), by their general practitioner (n = 2), by their HIV physician (n = 1) or at a PrEP clinic (n = 5). Ten patients reported unprotected anal intercourse and four had a concomitant STI at the time of HCV diagnosis. Six patients reported using drugs during sex.
Conclusions: Our observation calls for a larger nationwide epidemiological study on the prevalence, incidence and risk factors of HCV infection in HIV-uninfected MSM. In the changing landscape of TasP and PrEP, reliable and up-to-date epidemiological data on HCV among HIV-uninfected MSM are needed and will help in developing evidence-based testing policies.