Hepatitis C and women

Clearinghouse Connector – February 2015

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Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus that can lead to chronic liver disease, liver cancer and death. Some people with hepatitis C are able to spontaneously clear the virus, and rates of spontaneous clearance are higher in women than in men. There is no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C and previous infection with the virus does not provide immunity.

There is a higher incidence of hepatitis C in men than in women; in 2013, 3,664 females were diagnosed with hepatitis C infection compared with 7,024 males. In Australia, Hepatitis C is mainly spread through the sharing of drug injecting equipment. Patterns of needle sharing are different between women and men, and this leads to women being more at risk for hepatitis C infection. For example, women are more likely than men to engage in receptive needle sharing, which increases risk.

Hepatitis C infection is particularly prevalent in women in prison. The proportion of incarcerated women with hepatitis C is higher than the proportion of incarcerated men with hepatitis C. This is because a higher proportion of women prisoners are incarcerated for drug-related crimes.


Women and hepatitis C (Women’s Health Issues Paper) Women’s Health Victoria, 2009

Women and hepatitis C Hepatitis Victoria, 2013

HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia : 2014 Annual Surveillance Report Kirby Institute, 2014

Injecting drug use and injecting behaviours

Higher risk of incident hepatitis C virus amoung young women who inject drugs compared with young men in association with sexual relationships BMJ Open, 2014

Barriers and facilitators to hepatitis C treatment for people who inject drugs : a qualitative study World Health Organization. Regional Office for Europe, 2012

Hepatitis C virus risk behaviors within the partnerships of young injecting drug users Addiction, 2010

The importance of blood-borne viruses in elevated cancer risk among opioid-dependent people : a population-based cohort study BMJ Open, 2012

A qualitative study among injection drug using women in Rhode Island : attitudes toward testing, treatment, and vaccination for hepatitis and HIV AIDS Patient Care STDs, 2008

Hepatitis C treatment access and uptake for people who inject drugs : a review mapping the role of social factors Harm Reduction Journal, 2013


Women, prisons and hepatitis C HIV Australia, 2011

HCV in incarcerated populations : an analysis of gender and criminality on risk Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, 2008

Chapter 6 : Communicable diseases In: The health of Australia’s prisoners 2012 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2013

Trends in HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C prevalence among Australian prisoners 2004, 2007, 2010 Medical Journal of Australia, 2014

Indigenous women

Bloodborne viral and sexually transmitted infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people :2014 Aboriginal surveillance report Kirby Institute, 2014

Recognising and responding to hepatitis C in indigenous communities in Victoria: a research project exploring barriers to hepatitis C treatment Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, 2009

Diagnosis, treatment and health impacts

Women and hepatitis C Hepatitis Australia, 2014

Quality of life in women living with hepatitis C Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 2003

The role played by gender in viral hepatitis Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation, 2014

Consideration of gender in diagnosis and managment of blood-borne viruses : the case of hepatitis C Australian Journal of Primary Health, 2013

Gender influence on treatment of chronic hepatitis C genotype-1 Reviews of the Society of Brazilian Tropical Medicine, 2010

Higher clearance of hepatitis C virus infection in females compared with males Gut, 2006

Sexual and reproductive health

Contraception, punishment and women who use drugs BMC Women’s Health, 2014

“It f**ks your insides up” : the effects of Australian urban women’s opioid use on their sexual and reproductive functioning Women’s Health and Urban Life, 2009

Management of hepatitis C in pregnancy Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), 2013

Early menopause is associated with lack of response to antiviral therapy in women with chronic Hepatitis C Gastroenterology, 2010

Effect of chronic Hepatitis C virus infection on bone disease in postmenopausal women Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 2009

Is hepatitis C sexually transmitted? Hepatits Victoria, 2011

Factors associated with prevalent hepatitis C infection among HIV-infected women with no reported history of injection drug use : The Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WHS) AIDS Patient Care STDs, 2009


Fourth national hepatitis C strategy 2014-2017 Australia. Department of Health, 2014

Fourth national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander blood-borne viruses and sexually transmissible infections strategy 2014-2017 Australia. Department of Health, 2014

Hepatitis C prevention, treatment and care : guidelines for Australian custodial settings Australia. Department of Health, 2008

Related websites

Hepatitis Victoria

Hepatitis Australia

Women In Prison Advocacy Network (WIPAN)

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