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Keywords:

  • barriers to health care;
  • chronic HBV infection;
  • gender;
  • HBV treatment;
  • HIV co-infection;
  • immigration status

Summary.  A multicentre cross-sectional survey was performed to provide an accurate picture of patients with chronic hepatitis B (CHB) cared for by Italian Infectious Diseases Centers (IDCs). This analysis describes factors associated with access to the treatment of CHB in a country where barriers to treatment are not expected to exist because of comprehensive coverage under the National Health System (NHS). The study was performed in 74 IDCs. The analysis focused on 3305 patients with CHB of 3760 HBsAg-positive patients enrolled from March to September, 2008. To account for missing values, a Multiple Imputation method was used. Treatment was reported in 2091 (63.3%) patients. In the multivariate analysis, an increased chance of getting treatment was independently associated with 10 years increase of age at diagnosis (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 1.2, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.1–1.3, P < 0.001), HBeAg positivity (aOR 1.8, 95% CI 1.1–2.8, P < 0.001), cirrhosis (aOR 3.6, 95% CI 2–6.3, P = 0.012), HDV (aOR 1.6, 95% CI 1.02–2.5, P = 0.042) and HIV positivity (aOR 6.5, 95% CI 4–10.8, P < 0.001). Conversely, a decreased chance was associated with female gender (aOR 0.6, 95% CI 0.5–0.7, P < 0.001), immigration (aOR 0.6, 95% CI 0.5–0.9, P = 0.009), alcohol consumption (aOR 0.7, 95% CI 0.5–0.98, P = 0.04) and HCV positivity (aOR 0.5, 95% CI 0.3–0.8, P = 0.005). Our study shows that Italian IDCs treat a high percentage of patients with CHB. Nevertheless, disparities exist which are not related to the severity of disease limiting access to antiviral therapy of CHB, even in a country with a universal healthcare system.