Priorities and recommended actions for how researchers, practitioners, policy makers, and the affected community can work together to improve access to hepatitis C care for people who use drugs.

Affiliation

The Kirby Institute, UNSW Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. Electronic address: [Email]

Abstract

It is estimated that 6.1 million people with recent injecting drug use (PWID) are living with hepatitis C virus (HCV). Although HCV-related morbidity and mortality among PWID continues to increase, the advent of direct acting antiviral (DAA) HCV regimens with cure rates >95% provides an opportunity to reverse the rising burden of disease. Additionally, given evidence that opioid substitution therapy and high-coverage needle and syringe programs can reduce HCV incidence by up to 80%, there is an opportunity to reduce HCV transmission with increased coverage of harm reduction services. However, there are significant patient, provider, health system, structural, and societal barriers that impede access to HCV prevention and care for PWID. The International Network on Hepatitis in Substance Users (INHSU), in collaboration with the Australasian Society for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM), Harm Reduction International, the Canadian Network on Hepatitis C, Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse, the National Viral Hepatitis Roundtable, Médecins du Monde and CATIE, held a roundtable discussion prior to the Harm Reduction Conference in Montreal, Canada on 13th May 2017 to discuss how to improve HCV prevention and care for PWID. Over 100 international researchers, practitioners, policy makers, advocates, and affected community members came together to discuss shared priorities for action, develop actionable next steps and to create partnerships to enable application of priorities. This paper highlights the key priority areas identified by participants including: enhancing global coverage of harm reduction services; addressing punitive drug policies; ensuring access to affordable HCV diagnostics and treatment; improving the evidence-base for HCV prevention, testing, linkage to care and treatment; implementing integrated HCV programs; advancing peer-based models of HCV care; and tackling social determinants of health inequalities for PWID. This paper also highlights the recommended actions for each priority identified by the participants from this roundtable.

Keywords

Direct acting antiviral (DAA) treatment,HCV,Harm reduction,Hepatitis C,Models of care,Needle and syringe programs (NSP),Opioid substitution therapy (OST),PWID,

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