BACKGROUND: In Australia, Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) treatment is declining, despite broad access to direct-acting antiviral medication. People who inject drugs are proportionally over-represented in emergency department presentations. Emergency department assessment of people who have injected drugs for HCV presents an opportunity to engage this marginalised population with treatment. We describe the outcomes of risk-based screening and point-of-care anti-HCV testing for emergency department patients, and linkage to outpatient antiviral treatment. METHODS: During the three-month study period, consecutive adult patients who presented to the emergency department during the study times were screened for risk factors and offered the OraQuick oral HCV antibody test. Those with reactive results were offered venepuncture in the emergency department for confirmatory testing and direct-acting antiviral treatment in clinic. The main outcome measures were the number and proportion of viremic participants that were linked to the hepatitis clinic, commenced treatment and achieved a sustained viral response. Secondary outcome measures were the proportion (%) of presentations screened that were oral antibody reactive, and the prevalence and type of HCV risk factors. RESULTS: During the study period, 2408 of the 3931 (61%) presentations to the emergency department were eligible for screening. Of these 2408 patients, 1122 (47%) participated, 307 (13%) declined participation and 977 (41%) could not be approached during their time in the emergency department. Among the 1122 participants, 378 (34%) reported at least one risk factor. Subsequently, 368 (97%) of the 378 participants underwent OraQuick anti-HCV test, and 50 (14%) had a reactive result. A risk factor of ever having injected drugs was present in 44 (88%) of participants who were sero-positive. Of the 45 that had blood tested, 30 (67%) were HCV ribonucleic acid (RNA) positive. Three participants died. Of the 27 remaining participants, 10 (37%) commenced treatment and 7 of these 10 (70%) obtained a cure. There was a high rate of homelessness (24%) among anti-HCV positive participants. CONCLUSION: Among emergency department participants with a risk factor for HCV, positive serology was common using a rapid point-of-care test. A history of injecting drug use was identified as the risk factor with highest yield for positive HCV serology, and is suitable as a single screening question. However, linkage to care post ED presentation was low in this marginalised population. There is a need for new pathways to improve the care cascade for marginalised individuals living with HCV infection.
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