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Characterizing the cascade of care for hepatitis C virus infection among Status First Nations peoples in Ontario: a retrospective cohort study


Background — As First Nations Peoples are a priority focus of Canada’s commitment to eliminating hepatitis C virus (HCV) as a public health threat, understanding individuals’ progression from diagnosis to cure can guide prioritization of elimination efforts. We sought to characterize and identify gaps in the HCV care cascade for Status First Nations peoples in Ontario.

Methods — In this retrospective cohort study, a partnership between the Ontario First Nations HIV/AIDS Education Circle and academic researchers, HCV testing records (1999–2018) for Status First Nations peoples in Ontario were linked to health administrative data. We defined the cascade of care as 6 stages, as follows: tested positive for HCV antibody, tested for HCV RNA, tested positive for HCV RNA, HCV genotyped, initiated treatment and achieved sustained viral response (SVR). We mapped the care cascade from 1999 to 2018, and estimated the number and proportion of people at each stage. We stratified analyses by sex, diagnosis date and location of residence. We used Cox regression to analyze the secondary outcomes, namely the associations between undergoing HCV RNA testing and initiating treatment, and demographic and clinical predictors.

Results — By Dec. 31, 2018, 4962 people tested positive for HCV antibody. Of those testing positive, 4118 (83.0%) were tested for HCV RNA, with 2480 (60.2%) testing positive. Genotyping was completed in 2374 (95.7%) of those who tested positive for HCV RNA, with 1002 (42.2%) initiating treatment. Nearly 80% (n = 801, 79.9%) of treated people achieved SVR, with 34 (4.2%) experiencing reinfection or relapse. Undergoing testing for HCV RNA was more likely among people in older age categories (within 1 yr of antibody test; adjusted hazard ratio [HR] 1.30, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.19–1.41, among people aged 41–60 yr; adjusted HR 1.47, 95% CI 1.18–1.81, among people aged > 60 yr), those living in rural areas (adjusted HR 1.20, 95% CI 1.10–1.30), those with an index date after Dec. 31, 2013 (era of treatment with direct-acting antiviral regimens) (adjusted HR 1.99, 95% CI 1.85–2.15) and those with a record of substance use or addictive disorders (> 1 yr after antibody test; adjusted HR 1.38, 95% CI 1.18–1.60). Treatment initiation was more likely among people in older age categories at index date (adjusted HR 1.32, 95% CI 1.15–1.50, among people aged 41–60 yr; adjusted HR 2.62, 95% CI 1.80–3.82, among people aged > 60 yr) and those with a later diagnosis year (adjusted HR 2.71, 95% CI 2.29–3.22).

Interpretation — In comparison with HCV testing and diagnosis, a substantial gap in treatment initiation remains among Status First Nations populations in Ontario. Elimination efforts that prioritize linkage to care and integration with harm reduction and substance use services are needed to close gaps in HCV care among First Nations populations in Ontario.



Mendlowitz AB, Bremner KE, Krahn M, Walker JD, Wong WWL, Sander B, Jones L, Isaranuwatchai W, Feld JJ. CMAJ. 2023; 195(14):E499-512. Epub 2023 Apr 11.

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