Substance use & misuse 2016 10 2152(3) 340-350 doi 10.1080/10826084.2016.1225767
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is hyperendemic among people who inject drugs; nonsterile drug injection is the principle risk for HCV acquisition. Due to gaps in the HCV care continuum, there have been recommendations in the United States emphasizing age-rather than risk-based testing strategies. The central research focus of this project is to explore the meanings and implications of the shift in emphasis from risk-based to age-based HCV testing with regard to people who use drugs.
Content analysis and critical discourse analysis, informed by eco-social theory, were used to examine relevant documents.
Fifteen documents were assessed for eligibility; 6 documents comprised the final set reviewed. In content analysis, age-based testing was both mentioned more frequently and was supported more strongly than risk-based testing. Risk-based testing was frequently mentioned in terms minimizing its use and drug use was often mentioned only euphemistically. The reframed emphasis largely removed discussion of injection drug use from discussion of HCV risks.
Shifting the emphasis of HCV testing from testing based on specific routes of transmission and risk to testing based on age removes injection drug use from HCV discourse. This has the potential to either facilitate HCV care for drug users or to further stigmatize and marginalize drug use and people who use drugs. The potential implications of this shift in testing emphasis for public health merit further investigation.