1Department of General Internal Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 111 East 210 St., Bronx, NY, 10467, USA. email@example.com.
2Department of General Internal Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 111 East 210 St., Bronx, NY, 10467, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org.
3University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA. email@example.com.
4Department of General Internal Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 111 East 210 St., Bronx, NY, 10467, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org.
5Rutgers University, Newark, NJ, USA. email@example.com.
6Department of General Internal Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 111 East 210 St., Bronx, NY, 10467, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) accounts for 15,000 deaths in the United States yearly because people living with HCV are not identified in time to seek treatment, are ineligible for or refuse treatment, or face structural impediments to obtaining treatment such as lack of access to health care or lack of insurance. People who inject drugs (PWID) comprise a large proportion-estimates of up to 60-70 %-of current and new HCV infected individuals and face many barriers to completing HCV treatment.
We conducted 30 qualitative semi-structured interviews of current and former PWID seeking HCV treatment at an opioid-agonist treatment facility in New York City. We used thematic analysis, informed by grounded theory, to examine perceptions of HCV and decisions to initiate HCV treatment. We analyzed the themes that emerged via the common sense model (CSM) of illness perception theoretical framework.
Using thematic analyses, two major themes emerged related to engagement in HCV treatment. First, participants independently compared HCV to HIV, and in so doing, emphasized the potential fatality of HCV and the need for treatment. Second, participants described witnessing others suffer or die from untreated HCV and expressed how these recollections impacted their desire to undergo treatment themselves. Together, these themes contributed to the way participants perceived HCV and informed their decisions to initiate treatment. Both themes reflect the CSM's "self-regulation" process, which posits that understanding the causes and consequences of an illness impacts one's ability to seek treatment to overcome this illness state.
This paper offers insight into how clinicians can better understand and utilize HCV illness perceptions to evaluate willingness to engage in HCV treatment among PWID considering antiviral treatment modalities.