It may in African American women. Researchers have discovered that when African American women have both HIV and Hep C they are less likely to die from the liver disease than Hispanic or Caucasian women. Hepatology published the study results in its November issue.

Approximately 5 million Americans have Hepatitis C—of those five million, about 4 million have the virus active in their blood. It was also found that about one third of people with HIV also had HCV (Hepatitis C virus). In fact, HCV is the second leading killer among those who are infected with HIV. But an anomaly has been found in the way the diseases interact in African American women. While it is far more difficult to treat HCV in African American women who have HIV, they are also far less likely to die from HCV complications than those of other races.

Why the difference? Dr. Monika Sarkar, who is heading up the current study, admits that researchers do not yet know the reason behind this phenomenon. This is despite the fact that much research has already been done on how Hep C develops in people of various races. The study is currently being conducted at UCSF (University of California at San Francisco).

794 patients were a part of the study. The research was funded by the NIH (National Institutes of Health). The study included 495 African Americans, 140 Caucasians, and 159 Hispanics, all of whom were infected with both HIV and HCV. Check ups were conducted twice a year and included interviews and also clinical testing.

During the 9 years of study, 438 of the patients died. The deaths were fairly even across the races (56% of African Americans and Caucasians, 52% of Hispanics). The difference was in cause of death. While liver disease killed 21% of the Hispanics and 14% of the Caucasians, the death rate of African American patients due to liver disease was a mere 8%. Further studies are now being done to see the reason for discrepancy between race and the disease. Perhaps this will result in a means to control liver disease in HIV patients of other races more effectively.