Hep C prevalent among homeless youth

SASKATOON – A study of homeless youth in Saskatoon has come up with some disturbing findings.

Nearly 10% of the young people who took part in the research tested positive for hepatitis C. That’s more than double the rate of any other Canadian city where the disease has been studied. The research was conducted by Saskatoon community health nurse Jocelyn Andrews. It was the first study to focus on street kids rather than all drug users in the community.

Andrews also discovered that a drug routinely prescribed for children with an attention deficit disorder was abused by many of the 186 homeless kids who were studied. “What we saw in this subset of this street youth population is injection drug use is a risk for hep C, but what we found in Saskatoon is that use of Ritalin by injection was strongly associated with the hepatitis C virus.”

Andrews says the jury is still out on the role a needle-exchange program could play in reducing infection in youth. Most users of needle exchanges are in their 20s or older – and just having a clean needle is not the answer. “The needle-exchange service offers just the needle,” Andrews says. “With hep C we know it’s readily transmitted through not only the syringe that people are using to inject, but also the other paraphernalia that goes on with that practise: the water, the filter, the spoon.”

Andrews says there’s a positive spinoff from this study. Those who tested positive for hepatitis C have now been told where they can get medical help.
Source:CBC Saskatchewan – Saskatchewan,Canada
Apr 23 2004 http://sask.cbc.ca/regional/servlet/View?filename=hepcyouth04232004

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