Comparison of Risk-Based Hepatitis C Screening and the True Seroprevalence in an Urban Prison System


Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the most common blood-borne infection in the USA, though seroprevalence is elevated in certain high-risk groups such as inmates. Correctional facility screening protocols vary from universal testing to opt-in risk-based testing. This project assessed the success of a risk-based HCV screening strategy in the Philadelphia Prison System (PPS) by comparing results from current testing practices during 2011–2012 (Risk-Based Screening Group) to a September 2012 blinded seroprevalence study (Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) Study Cohort). PPS processed 51,562 inmates in 2011–2012; 2,727 were identified as high-risk and screened for HCV, of whom 57 % tested HCV antibody positive. Twelve percent (n = 154) of the 1,289 inmates in the PDPH Study Cohort were anti-HCV positive. Inmates ≥30 years of age had higher rates of seropositivity in both groups. Since only 5.3 % of the prison population was included in the Risk-Based Screening Group, an additional 4,877 HCV-positive inmates are projected to have not been identified in 2011–2012. Gaps in case identification exist when risk-based testing is utilized by PPS. A more comprehensive screening model such as opt-out universal testing should be considered to identify HCV-positive inmates. Identification of these individuals is an important opportunity to aid underserved high-risk populations and to provide medical care and secondary prevention.

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The authors would like to acknowledge the work of the PPS staff, specifically Reed Domer-Shank. In addition, the Philadelphia Public Health Laboratory staff made this project possible. Funding for this analysis was provided, in part, through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Cooperative Agreement for Addressing Syndemics Through Program Collaboration and Service Integration (5U38PS003152).

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Correspondence to Danica E. Kuncio.

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Kuncio, D.E., Newbern, E.C., Fernandez-Viña, M.H. et al. Comparison of Risk-Based Hepatitis C Screening and the True Seroprevalence in an Urban Prison System. J Urban Health 92, 379–386 (2015).

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  • Hepatitis C virus
  • Correctional health
  • Testing strategies