Views and experiences of hepatitis C testing and diagnosis among people who inject drugs: Systematic review of qualitative research

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Jones, L ; Atkinson, A ; Bates, G ; McCoy, E ; Porcellato, LA ; Beynon, C ; McVeigh, J ; Bellis, MA

Background: Many developed countries are facing a major challenge to improve identification of individuals acutely and chronically infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. We explored the views and experiences of people who inject drugs (PWID) in relation to HCV testing, and diagnosis through a review and synthesis of qualitative research.\ud \ud Methods: Based on the thematic synthesis of qualitative research. Searches were conducted in 14 databases and supplemented by reference checking, hand searching of selected journals, and searches of relevant websites. Studies of any qualitative design that examined the views and experiences of, and attitudes towards, HCV testing and diagnosis among PWID or practitioners involved in their care were included. Key themes and sub-themes were systematically coded according to the meaning and content of the findings of each study which proceeded to the preparation of a narrative account of the synthesis.\ud \ud Results: 28 qualitative studies were identified. We identified a number of overarching descriptive themes in the literature, finding overall that PWID hold complex and differing views and experiences of testing and diagnosis. Three major themes emerged: missed opportunities for the provision of information and knowledge; shifting priorities between HCV testing and other needs; and testing as unexpected and routine. Evidence of missed opportunities for the provision of knowledge and information about HCV were clear, contributing to delays in seeking testing and providing a context to poor experiences of diagnosis. Influenced by the nature of their personal circumstances, perceptions of the risk associated with HCV and the prioritisation of other needs acted both to encourage and discourage the uptake of HCV testing. Undergoing HCV testing as part of routine health assessment, and an unawareness of being testing was common. An unexpected positive diagnosis exacerbated anxiety and confusion.\ud \ud Conclusions: This review has identified that there are modifiable factors that affect the uptake of HCV testing and experiences of HCV diagnosis among PWID. Intervention development should focus on addressing these factors. There is a need for further research that engages PWID from a diverse range of populations to identify interventions, strategies and approaches that they consider valuable.
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