Hepatitis B Among Homeless and Other Impoverished US Military Veterans in Residential Care in Los Angeles

Published in: Public Health, v. 115, no. 4, July 2001, p. 286-291

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2001

by Lillian Gelberg, M. J. Robertson, Barbara Leake, Suzanne L. Wenzel, Lailee Bakhtiar, Elizabeth A. Hardie, Nancy Sadler, Terri Getzug

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Findings are presented for a cross-sectional study of serological markers of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in an underserved population of impoverished veterans of the US armed forces in a Veterans Administration (VA) residential program in the US. The authors examine the demographic, background, and risk factors associated with HBV infection in this high-risk population. This paper presents a secondary analysis of cross-sectional survey and clinical data for 370 male veterans who were residents of a domiciliary care program for homeless veterans in Los Angeles, using Fisher's Exact, and logistic regression analysis. About one-third (30.8%) of the sample tested positive for current or past HBV infection (i.e., seropositive for either the HBV core antibody or surface antigen). After multivariate analysis, rates of HBV were significantly higher among veterans who were older, non-white, or who had a history of regular heroin use (a proxy measure for injection drug use), drug overdose, or drug detoxification treatment. The rate of current or past HBV infection among veterans in this sample (30.8%) was high compared to an estimated 5% to 8% of the general US population. Also, 3% of the sample were currently infected with HBV. Strategies for intervention include broader screening, immunization, and treatment interventions with this high-risk group.

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