Hepatitis C virus infection in HIV-infected patients
The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a spherical enveloped RNA virus of the Flaviviridae family, classified within the Hepacivirus genus. Since its discovery in 1989, HCV has been recognized as a major cause of chronic hepatitis and hepatic fibrosis that progresses in some patients to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. In the United States, approximately 4 million people have been infected with HCV, and 10,000 HCVrelated deaths occur each year. Due to shared routes of transmission, HCV and HIV co-infection are common, affecting approximately one third of all HIV-infected persons in the United States. In addition, HIV co-infection is associated with higher HCV RNA viral load and a more rapid progression of HCV-related liver disease, leading to an increased risk of cirrhosis. HCV infection may also impact the course and management of HIV disease, particularly by increasing the risk of antiretroviral drug-induced hepatotoxicity. Thus, chronic HCV infection acts as an opportunistic disease in HIV-infected persons because the incidence of infection is increased and the natural history of HCV infection is accelerated in co-infected persons. Strategies to prevent primary HCV infection and to modify the progression of HCV-related liver disease are urgently needed among HIV/HCV co-infected individuals.