Irish College of General Practitioners Dublin, Dublin, Ireland. firstname.lastname@example.org.
School of Medicine University College, Dublin, Ireland. email@example.com.
Irish Prison Service, Longford, Ireland. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Irish College of General Practitioners Dublin, Dublin, Ireland.
Public Health Institute, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK.
School of Medicine University College, Dublin, Ireland.
Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.
Irish Prison Service, Longford, Ireland.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a global epidemic with an estimated 71 million people infected worldwide. People who inject drugs (PWID) are overrepresented in prison populations globally and have higher levels of HCV infection than the general population. Despite increased access to primary health care while in prison, many HCV infected prisoners do not engage with screening or treatment. With recent advances in treatment regimes, HCV in now a curable and preventable disease and prisons provide an ideal opportunity to engage this hard to reach population.
To identify barriers and enablers to HCV screening and treatment in prisons.
A qualitative study of four prisoner focus groups (n = 46) conducted at two prison settings in Dublin, Ireland.
The following barriers to HCV screening and treatment were identified: lack of knowledge, concerns regarding confidentiality and stigma experienced and inconsistent and delayed access to prison health services. Enablers identified included; access to health care, opt-out screening at committal, peer support, and stability of prison life which removed many of the competing priorities associated with life on the outside. Unique blocks and enablers to HCV treatment reported were fear of treatment and having a liver biopsy, the requirement to go to hospital and in-reach hepatology services and fibroscanning.
The many barriers and enablers to HCV screening and treatment reported by Irish prisoners will inform both national and international public health HCV elimination strategies. Incarceration provides a unique opportunity to upscale HCV treatment and linkage to the community would support effectiveness.