New highly effective medications are available to treat the hepatitis C virus (HCV). However, little is known about HCV treatment knowledge and readiness among young people who inject drugs (PWID), or factors that may contribute to treatment uptake and adherence in this treatment era.
Using a framework for understanding healthcare utilization, we examined perspectives and experiences of young PWID tied to the HCV care continuum in Boston, Massachusetts, to inform future strategies.
We conducted 24 in-depth interviews with active and recent PWID aged 22-30 years living with HCV in Boston, February-August 2016. At the time of the interviews, no participants had been prescribed or had taken the new direct acting antivirals. We developed a codebook deductively from the interview guide and coded and analyzed the data into themes using a consensus-based process.
The following five themes emerged, which captured PWID's knowledge of and experiences with HCV along the care continuum through social determinants of engagement in care, as well as illness level: (1) deservingness of HCV treatment and stigma, (2) dissatisfaction with provider interactions, (3) perceived lack of referral to treatment and care continuity, (4) disincentives around HCV treatment for PWID; and (5) perceived need for treatment. Young PWID living with HCV face unique barriers to HCV testing, counseling, and treatment.
Breakdowns in the HCV care continuum may have adverse effects on HCV-treatment readiness and willingness. Improved public health and practice approaches are needed to address these barriers to effectively engage young PWID in care.