Drug and alcohol workers support for HCV treatment uptake among clients with a history of injecting drug use

Stream: Rapid Papers 1
Date: Thursday, 31 March 2016
Time: 3.30 pm – 4.45 pm

Abstract

Introduction: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a highly stigmatised illness because of its association with injecting drug use. Although treatment is available for HCV, uptake remains low, especially amongst people who inject drugs (PWID). Research suggests that health workers’ attitudes can influence quality of care as well as client health outcomes. This research assesses whether negative attitudes towards PWID impacts health workers’ intentions to support people living with HCV who have a history of injecting drug use to access HCV treatment. Methods: Ninety alcohol and other drug (AOD) workers from non-government organisations completed either an online or hard copy survey assessing their attitudes towards PWID and their support for HCV treatment for three different client scenarios: one who stopped injecting; one on methadone maintenance; and, one who continues to inject. Results: Support for HCV treatment was strong, and significantly higher, in the two scenarios where the client was no longer injecting in comparison to support for the client still currently injecting. Additionally those participants who showed more negative attitudes towards PWID were less supportive of clients with a history of injecting entering HCV treatment, irrespective of whether the client was a current injecting drug user. Conclusions: These findings illustrate the influence of health workers’ attitudes towards PWID in shaping the HCV care and treatment options they may offer to their clients, especially those who are currently injecting. The attitudes of health workers may therefore act unintentionally as an additional barrier to HCV treatment uptake among clients living with HCV.

Authors

Loren Brener (Presenter), Centre for Social Research in Health
Dr Loren Brener is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Research in Health. Her research track focuses on negative attitudes, stigma and discrimination towards people living with a stigmatised illness. She is particularly interested in the health outcomes associated with living with a stigmatised illness.

Courtney von Hippel, University of Queensland

Hannah Wilson, University of Sydney

Max Hopwood, Centre for Social Research in Health
Dr Max Hopwood is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Social Research in Health. His work is in the areas of viral hepatitis, HIV, illicit drug use, harm reduction and drug policy.