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Disparities in hepatitis C testing in U.S. veterans born 1945-1965.

Sarkar S, Esserman DA, Skanderson M, Levin FL, Justice AC, Lim JK. Disparities in hepatitis C testing in U.S. veterans born 1945-1965. Journal of Hepatology. 2016 Aug 1; 65(2):259-65.

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BACKGROUND and AIMS: Universal one-time antibody testing for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection has been recommended by the centers for disease control (CDC) and the United States preventative services task force (USPSTF) for Americans born 1945-1965 (birth cohort). Limited data exists addressing national HCV testing practices. We studied patterns and predictors of HCV testing across the U.S. within the birth cohort utilizing data from the national corporate data warehouse of the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) health system. METHODS: Testing was defined as any HCV test including antibody, RNA or genotype performed during 2000-2013. RESULTS: Of 6,669,388 birth cohort veterans, 4,221,135 (63%) received care within the VA from 2000-2013 with two or more visits. Of this group, 2,139,935 (51%) had HCV testing with 8.1% HCV antibody and 5.4% RNA positive. Significant variation in testing was observed across centers (range: 7-83%). Older, male, African-Americans, with established risk factors and receiving care from urban centers of excellence were more likely to be tested. Among veterans free of other established risk factors (HIV negative, HBV negative, ALT ?40U/L, FIB-4 ?1.45, or APRI < 0.5), HCV antibody and RNA were positive in 2.8% and 0.9%, respectively, comparable to established national average. At least 2.4-4.4% of veterans had scores suggesting advanced fibrosis (APRI ?1.5 or FIB-4 > 3.25) with > 30-43% having positive HCV RNA but > 16-20% yet to undergo testing for HCV. CONCLUSIONS: Significant disparities are observed in HCV testing within the United States VA health system. Examination of the predictors of testing and HCV positivity may help inform national screening policies. LAY SUMMARY: Analysis of United States Veterans Administration data show significant disparities in hepatitis C virus testing of veterans born 1945-1965 (birth cohort). A fifth of those not tested had evidence of advanced liver fibrosis. Our data suggests some predictors for this disparity and will potentially help inform future policy measures in the era of universal birth cohort testing for HCV.

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