Investigations into Risk Factors and Determinants of HIV and Hepatitis C Incidence and Prevalence among High Risk Youth

Researchers have conducted extensive studies of injection drug use in Vancouver, but few have focused specifically on high-risk youth. Enter Cari Miller. Her Masters research — a sub-study of the Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study (VIDUS) — examined prevalence and incidence of HIV and hepatitis C among more than 200 injection drug users aged 13 to 24. Cari has first-hand experience to draw from. She put in 24-hour shifts as a part-time youth worker with the Vancouver Native Health Underage Safe House. Working with youth — most of whom were drug dependent, female and Aboriginal — has fuelled her passion for research and the urgency for new health policies to support them. Results from the research show high prevalence and exceedingly high incidence rates for HIV and hepatitis C among young injection drug users. Her findings indicate that those at highest risk are female and Aboriginal youth engaged in both drug and sexual related risk, and half of young injectors acquire hepatitis C infection during their first two years of injection drug use. Cari hopes that developing a better understanding of the risk behaviours among these young people will lead to more effective prevention and intervention programs. Ultimately, she would like to see more treatment opportunities for high-risk youth.