4NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, Southampton, UK.
Little is known about the level of testing required to sustain elimination of hepatitis C (HCV), once achieved. In this study, we model the testing coverage required to maintain HCV elimination in an injecting network of people who inject drugs (PWID). We test the hypothesis that network-based strategies are a superior approach to deliver testing. We created a dynamic injecting network structure connecting 689 PWID based on empirical data. The primary outcome was the testing coverage required per month to maintain prevalence at the elimination threshold over 5 years. We compared four testing strategies. Without any testing or treatment provision, the prevalence of HCV increased from the elimination threshold (11.68%) to a mean of 25.4% (SD 2.96%) over the 5-year period. To maintain elimination with random testing, on average, 4.96% (SD 0.83%) of the injecting network needs to be tested per month. However, with a 'bring your friends' strategy, this was reduced to 3.79% (SD 0.64%) of the network (p < .001). The addition of contact tracing improved the efficiency of both strategies. In conclusion, we report that network-based approaches to testing such as 'bring a friend' initiatives and contact tracing lower the level of testing coverage required to maintain elimination.