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Unravelling the maze : Hepatitis C, psychosocial factors and access to antiviral therapy

  • Hepworth, Julie
  • van Driel, Mieke
  • Bain, Tanya
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2012
Queensland University of Technology ePrints Archive
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In this paper we present an examination of the literature on the psychosocial aspects of hepatitis C (HCV), and ask what are the implications for patients and clinicians regarding access to treatment? Hepatitis C (HCV) is a blood-borne communicable disease that was identified in 1988. In Australia, an estimated 217,000 people live with HCV. The virus causes serious liver inflammation, can lead to liver cirrhosis and a small percentage of sufferers will develop hepatocellular carcinoma. Reports about the psychosocial aspects of HCV appeared from around 1994 indicating a similar set of societal responses to people with HIV; stigmatisation and discrimination. A number of calls were made for the establishment of counselling and support services to address the specific mental health needs of people with HCV. We conducted a systematic review of the literature between 2002-2012 about the psychosocial aspects of HCV and its relationship to access to treatment and identified a number of key issues that suggest the anticipated progress in this area has not been made. The majority of people with HCV already experience marginalisation, and the diagnosis of HCV further compounds their marginalisation through stigma and discrimination and complicates clinical decision-making around treatment. We conclude that the need for mental health services that are capable of addressing the complexities of the psychosocial aspects of HCV remains. Concomitantly, primary care clinicians require greater clarity and consistency about the clinical guidelines for HCV to meet the increasing expectations on them to deliver comprehensive patient management within primary care. (248 words)

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