Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
OLIVEIRA, Sabrina A. N. et al. A window of opportunity: declining rates of hepatitis B virus infection among injection drug users in Rio de Janeiro, and prospects for targeted hepatitis B vaccination. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2005, vol.18, n.4-5, pp. 271-277. ISSN 1020-4989. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892005000900007.
OBJECTIVES: To measure hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection rates among injection drug users in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and to report their knowledge of and attitudes toward hepatitis and HBV vaccination. METHODS: 609 injection drug users recruited in Rio de Janeiro between 1999 and 2001 answered a questionnaire and were tested for hepatitis B and other blood-borne infections. Questions covered sociodemographic information, alcohol and illicit drug consumption, drug injection and sexual practices, medical history, and knowledge about HIV, AIDS and viral hepatitis. RESULTS: The prevalence of HBV infection was 27.1% , with 3.4% of the sample positive for HbsAg (active infection) and 0.8% positive for anti-HBs (indicating previous HBV vaccination). Most interviewees (81.3%) were aware of at least one form of viral hepatitis and received information from many different sources. In agreement with laboratory findings, 96.7% of the interviewees stated they had never been vaccinated against hepatitis B, but almost all unvaccinated interviewees (97.8%) said they would volunteer to be vaccinated if HBV vaccination were available. CONCLUSIONS: Few of the injection drug users surveyed had ever been vaccinated against HBV. Although most were aware of the risks posed by viral hepatitis, this awareness seldom translated into consistent behavioral change. The participants' willingness to be vaccinated against HBV suggests that the implementation of vaccination for this population may help decrease rates of hepatitis B infection.
Keywords : Brazil; hepatitis B virus; injection drug users; vaccination.