AIMS: To measure exposure to the hepatitis C and B viruses and HIV among Victorian steroid injectors and evaluate associations between exposure and risk behaviour, and report other characteristics of the study group.
DESIGN: Seroprevalence study using a convenience sample.
SETTING: Victoria, Australia.
PARTICIPANTS: Current injectors of illicit anabolic steroids.
MEASUREMENTS: Prevalences of exposure to HIV and the hepatitis B and C viruses; associations of characteristics and behaviours with exposure; descriptive statistics for the sample.
FINDINGS: Six of 63 blood samples (9.5%) contained hepatitis C virus antibodies; 12.0% tested positive for hepatitis B core antibody; none contained anti-HIV. Hepatitis C virus exposure was associated with heroin injection, imprisonment, sharing needles to inject other drugs, number of tattoos, and hepatitis B virus exposure. No significant differences existed in the steroid-related risk behaviour of exposed and non-exposed individuals. Hepatitis B virus exposure was associated only with hepatitis C virus exposure, past imprisonment and age of first injection.
CONCLUSIONS: Exposure to the hepatitis B and C viruses was detected; hepatitis C virus exposure was at much lower prevalence than normally found among other drug injectors. Factors other than steroid injecting were associated with exposure. Nonetheless, the hepatitis C-exposed reported many steroid-related and other risk behaviours which could spread the virus. Steroid injectors should not be neglected in blood-borne virus prevention efforts.