- 1UNSW Sydney, Australia.
- 2London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK.
Until recently, the only medical treatment available for the hepatitis C virus (HCV) was interferon-based therapy, a notoriously long and arduous treatment with limited success. However, in December 2015, the Australian Government announced a scheme of 'universal access' to new, highly effective direct-acting antiviral therapies (DAAs). This article draws on in-depth interviews with community actors engaged in national and state-based drug user and viral hepatitis advocacy to trace how universal access to curative medicines affords revised notions of citizenship and social inclusion among people who inject drugs and others affected by HCV. To inform our analysis, we draw on and combine critical perspectives from the biological citizenship literature, particularly pharmaceutical citizenship, along with work on the concepts of 'publics and counterpublics'. We ask: what kinds of emergent HCV communities or publics are being enacted through our participant accounts in response to the new DAA-era of universal access, and what forms of citizenship and inclusion (or non-citizenship and exclusion) do they postulate? Some accounts indeed enacted treatment as an individual, sometimes collective, 'good': a citizenship potential. However, a number of accounts enacted situated limits to a straightforward actualisation of this potential, performing a model of public health governance that prioritised viral cure whilst rendering injecting drug use and its attendant social disadvantages an absent presence. Reconceptualising HCV treatment within a counterpublic health sensibility would, by engaging with the everyday health needs and aspirations of people living with HCV in conditions of social disadvantage, create space for new social inclusions and citizenships.