Sydney Medical School - Nepean, The University of Sydney, Penrith, New South Wales, Australia.
To assess the awareness of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection status in a high-risk population.
A targeted population survey of clients of methadone maintenance clinics in metropolitan and rural New South Wales, using an interviewer-administered face-to-face questionnaire. Main outcome measures include awareness of HCV status, time elapsed since last tested and children's HCV status.
A total of 329 clients completed the survey, of which 97% perceived to have been tested for HCV in the past. One hundred and seventy (52%) participants considered themselves to be negative for HCV. Of these the median time since last tested was 2 years (2 weeks-25 years). Although 94% of all parents believed that their child's HCV status was negative, only 49% of respondents stated that their children had been tested for HCV. Voluntary testing was offered to all clients and their children with only one accepting.
Awareness of HCV infection status in this high-risk population is suboptimal. This indicates that existing educational strategies are inadequate and that there is a disconnect between their health needs and the medical care they receive. Novel approaches need to be considered to improve the knowledge of HCV transmission and hopefully improve HCV-associated health outcomes in high-risk populations.