Background: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections in people who inject drugs (PWID) can now be treated and cured. However, the impact that HCV treatment has on drug-user health, practices and wellbeing is not known. The aim of this research was to understand the non-clinical impact that HCV treatment has in PWID and their reasons for accessing and completing treatment.
Methods: Participants aged 25–67 years who had injected opioids or stimulants (currently or in the past) and had completed direct-acting antiviral treatment were recruited from seven European countries. Participants completed a 30-min online survey administered face-to-face between September 2018 and April 2019. The questionnaire responses were used to assess the mental and physical impact of having completed treatment.
Results: Of the 124 participants who completed the survey questionnaire, 75% were male, 69% were over 45 years old and 65% were using opioids and/or stimulants at the start of HCV treatment. Participants reported improvements in the following areas after completing HCV treatment: outlook for the future (79%); self-esteem (73%); ability to plan for the future (69%); belief in their abilities (68%); confidence (67%); empowerment (62%); energy levels (59%); and ability to look after themselves (58%). The most common reasons for starting HCV treatment were: becoming aware of treatments that were well tolerated (77%) and effective (75%); and understanding the potentially severe consequences of HCV (75%).
Conclusions: The benefits of HCV treatment go beyond clinical outcomes and are linked to improved drug-user health and wellbeing. Sharing information about well-tolerated and effective HCV treatments, and raising awareness about the potentially severe consequences of untreated HCV are likely to increase the number of PWID who are motivated to access and complete HCV treatment in future.
Keywords: Hepatitis C, Outcomes, Experience, People who inject drugs, Mental health, Physical wellbeing