Evidence documents successful hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment outcomes for people who inject drugs (PWID) and interest in HCV treatment among this population. Maximising HCV treatment for PWID can be an effective HCV preventative measure. Yet HCV treatment among PWID remains suboptimal. This review seeks to map social factors mediating HCV treatment access.
We undertook a review of the social science and public health literature pertaining to HCV treatment for PWID, with a focus on barriers to treatment access, uptake and completion. Medline and Scopus databases were searched, supplemented by manual and grey literature searches. A two step search was taken, with the first step pertaining to literature on HCV treatment for PWID and the second focusing on social structural factors. In total, 596 references were screened, with 165 articles and reports selected to inform the review.
Clinical and individual level barriers to HCV treatment among PWID are well evidenced. These include patient and provider concerns regarding co-morbidities, adherence, and side effect management. Social factors affecting treatment access are less well evidenced. In attempting to map these, key barriers fall into the following domains: social stigma, housing, criminalisation, health care systems, and gender. Key facilitating factors to treatment access include: combination intervention approaches encompassing social as well as biomedical interventions, low threshold access to opiate substitution therapy, and integrated delivery of multidisciplinary care.
Combination intervention approaches need to encompass social interventions in relation to housing, stigma reduction and systemic changes in policy and health care delivery. Future research needs to better delineate social factors affecting treatment access.