Source London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a significant global public health problem. In developed countries, 90% of new infections occur among people who inject drugs (PWID), with seroprevalence increasing rapidly among new injectors. Staying Safe is an international, qualitative, social research project, the aim of which is to draw on the experiences of long-term PWID to inform a new generation of HCV prevention strategies. The Sydney project team employed life history interviews and computer-generated timelines to elicit detailed data about unexposed participants' (n = 13) injecting practices, circumstances, and social networks over time. The motivations and strategies that enabled participants to avoid risk situations, and which might have helped them to "stay safe," appeared not to be directly related to harm-reduction messages or HCV avoidance. These included the ability and inclination to maintain social and structural resources, to mainly inject alone, to manage withdrawal, and to avoid injecting-related scars. These findings point to the multiple priorities that facilitate viral avoidance among PWID and the potential efficacy of nonspecific HCV harm-reduction interventions for HCV prevention.