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The relationship between hepatitis C virus and injection drug use in Saskatoon street youth



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The transmission and prevalence of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) among those who use injection drugs is a major public health issue. Injection drug use has been identified as the main cause of transmission for HCV in Canada. Street youth are at risk for acquiring HCV due to injection drug use that is often a consequence of living in a street environment. Presently, research on prevalence trends, characteristics, and associated behaviors for injection drug use and HCV in street youth, is limited. The purposes of this study were to determine prevalence of injection drug use and HCV in Saskatoon street youth, to identify demographic or other factors that may contribute to street youth using injection drugs, and to identify risk factors and other characteristics of street youth associated with HCV. This study utilized data from Phase III of the Enhanced STD Surveillance in Canadian Street Youth Study by Health Canada for those participants recruited from Saskatoon, Canada. Between February and July 2001, 186 Saskatoon street youth participants between the ages 14 and 24 years completed nurse-administered questionnaires and of these, 156 provided blood specimens. Analyses were conducted to compare population characteristics between street youth who have used injection drugs and those who had not. Similarly, population characteristics were analyzed among those street youth who were antibody-HCV positive and those that were antibody HCV negative.In this study 32.3% of 186 participants had used injection drugs. Significant associations with injection drug use were found for older age (p = 0.01), having sexual partners that use injection drugs (p = 0.01), history of incarceration (p = 0.01), and history of living on the street (p = 0.02). Significant interactions were found for sex trade work by gender (p < 0.01) and by age (p = 0.03), and for living on the street by age (p = 0.02). A HCV prevalence rate of 9.3% of 156 participants was determined for Saskatoon street youth. Use of Ritalin by injection (p = 0.04) and history of living on the street (p = 0.05) were found to be significant risk factors associated with HCV. The interaction of living on the street by gender was also significantly associated with HCV (p = 0.05). The relationship identified between HCV and injection drug use in Saskatoon street youth was a history of living on the street. This link between could serve as a valuable marker for use of injection drugs and developing HCV infection in street youth. Nurses are encouraged to seek out street youth social networks to provide health care and messages of health promotion and disease prevention. Strategies that are culturally, socially, and developmentally appropriate are needed to keep these youth off the streets in the first place.



sex trade worker, Aboriginal, Hepatitis C Virus, injection drug use, street youth, high-risk behavior, homeless



Master of Nursing (M.N.)


College of Nursing


College of Nursing


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