OBJECTIVE To describe epidemiology of viral hepatitis (including HAV, HBV and HCV) among men who have sex with men (MSM) aged between 18 and 45 years and living in Lazio, an Italian Region with about 5.9 million inhabitants whose main city is Rome.
METHODS A sero-survey (cross-sectional study) was conducted as part of a screening and prevention campaign for improving control of viral hepatitis in Lazio. The study enrolled 1,100 MSM people participating to the campaign. Outcome measures were serology for HAV (anti-HAV IgG and anti-HAV IgM), serology for HBV (anti-HBs, anti-HBc and HBsAg), and serology for HCV (anti-HCV). Participants’ epidemiological features were assessed for potential association with outcomes.
RESULTS We found a very low prevalence of immunity against HAV and a significant exposure to high-risk behaviours, suggesting that gay community of Lazio is an ideal setting for HAV outbreaks. Prevalence of different serology profiles for HBV suggests that waning immunity and escape to mandatory vaccination still represent a significant issue in patients older than 35 years. Moreover, waning immunity suggests that patients who were vaccinated at birth may show low antibody levels. Consistently with other studies, prevalence of HCV infection was very low among young MSM.
CONCLUSION Tailored vaccine programme aimed at immunizing MSM are critical to improve control of HAV in our setting. Findings on HBV epidemiology suggest that there is a need to define a clear strategy to recover patients who escaped vaccination and inform clinicians on the need to booster subjects with low immunity and high risk of exposure, such as MSM. Finally, MSM in Lazio do not represent a special group for HCV neither in terms of risk of infection nor in terms of potential issues for therapy access.