Publications by authors named "Magdalena Harris"

50 Publications

Conceptualising hepatitis C stigma: A thematic synthesis of qualitative research.

Int J Drug Policy 2021 Jul 11:103320. Epub 2021 Jul 11.

Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), Hospital Clínic, University of Barcelona, Calle del Rossellón 132, ES-08036 Barcelona, Spain; Faculty of Medicine, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain. Electronic address:

Background: Stigma is an important element in the experience of living with chronic viral hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV), impacting healthcare access and uptake as well as health outcomes. Conceptualisations of stigma in research are, however, often assumed and implicit. This study aimed to synthesise and critically engage with the qualitative literature to provide an overarching conceptualisation of stigma as it pertains to viral hepatitis.

Methods: We critically reviewed qualitative literature that mobilised concepts or theories of stigma in relation to viral hepatitis. We searched seven electronic databases for peer-reviewed literature from 2000 to 2019. Given a dearth of conceptual literature on HBV stigma, we conducted a thematic analysis of concepts deployed to theorise stigma in relation to HCV.

Results: We found 13 studies that conceptualised stigma in relation to HCV, yet none for HBV. We synthesise the analytical findings of these studies and explore how HCV is theorised in relation to four themes: 'identity', 'embodiment', 'institutionalisation', and 'structuration'. Taken together, these themes illustrate the way in which HCV stigma manifests as the confluence of normative assumptions of socially unacceptable practices relating to HCV, such as injecting drug use and sexual behaviours; attitudes towards socially excluded populations; and fears of contracting a contagious and chronic illness. As such, operating within political, social, and economic systems, HCV stigma can act to silence the needs of those with HCV through misrecognising the multifaceted identities of individuals with HCV and structural determinants of health. Stigma, which is built and perpetuated by institutional arrangements, as well as in social processes and policies, shapes deservedness to, as well as engagements with, health and social care.

Conclusion: While commonly employed as a framing concept, much research lacks explicit theoretical or critical engagement on how stigma is conceptualised. There is a tendency for qualitative, empirical research to focus on risk factors shaping individual behaviour change, rather than on risk contexts and socio-structural change. Approaches to address stigma in relation to HCV must consider how stigma operates throughout social processes and is embedded in systems of power and normalised in institutional operating systems.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103320DOI Listing
July 2021

Ecologies of drug war and more-than-human health: The case of a chemical at war with a plant.

Int J Drug Policy 2021 Mar 13;89:103067. Epub 2020 Dec 13.

University of New South Wales, Australia.

Drawing on an ecological approach, we trace how the political-economy of drug wars are locally materialised in relation to health. We take the case of coca cultivation and eradication as our example. To make our analysis, we trace the different ways that the chemical glyphosate is materialised in a war with the coca plant in Colombia. Glyphosate has been used for decades in aerial fumigation campaigns to eradicate illicit coca cultivation. Our analysis traces the more-than-human effects of glyphosate in relation to health. This leads us to outline a more-than-human approach to harm reduction; a harm reduction which positions health as a matter of ecology, paying attention not only to the nonhuman actors affecting human health but also to the health of environments which are themselves always in-the-making. We envisage harm reduction as a collaboration in which humans 'become-with' their environments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.103067DOI Listing
March 2021

Injecting drug use, the skin and vasculature.

Addiction 2021 Jul 30;116(7):1914-1924. Epub 2020 Oct 30.

Sociology of Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), London, UK.

Damage to the skin, subcutaneous tissues and blood vessels are among the most common health harms related to injecting drug use. From a limited range of early reports of injecting-related skin and soft tissue damage there is now an increasing literature relating to new drugs, new contaminants and problems associated with unsafe injection practices. Clinical issues range from ubiquitous problems associated with repeated minor localised injection trauma to skin and soft tissue and infections around injection sites, to systemic blood infections and chronic vascular disease. The interplay of limited availability and access to sterile injecting equipment, poor injecting technique, compromised drug purity, drug toxicity and difficult personal and environmental conditions give rise to injection-related health harms. This review of injecting-related skin, soft tissue and vascular damage focuses on epidemiology and causation, clinical examination and investigation, treatment and prevention.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/add.15283DOI Listing
July 2021

The Hep-CORE policy score: A European hepatitis C national policy implementation ranking based on patient organization data.

PLoS One 2020 28;15(7):e0235715. Epub 2020 Jul 28.

Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), Hospital Clínic, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

Background: New hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatments spurred the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2016 to adopt a strategy to eliminate HCV as a public health threat by 2030. To achieve this, key policies must be implemented. In the absence of monitoring mechanisms, this study aims to assess the extent of policy implementation from the perspective of liver patient groups.

Methods: Thirty liver patient organisations, each representing a country, were surveyed in October 2018 to assess implementation of HCV policies in practice. Respondents received two sets of questions based on: 1) WHO recommendations; and 2) validated data sources verifying an existing policy in their country. Academic experts selected key variables from each set for inclusion into policy scores. The similarity scores were calculated for each set with a multiple joint correspondence analysis. Proxy reference countries were included as the baseline to contextualize results. We extracted scores for each country and standardized them from 0 to 10 (best).

Results: Twenty-five countries responded. For the score based on WHO recommendations, Bulgaria had the lowest score whereas five countries (Cyprus, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Sweden) had the highest scores. For the verified policy score, a two-dimensional solution was identified; first dimension scores pertained to whether verified policies were in place and second dimension scores pertained to the proportion of verified policies in-place that were implemented. Spain, UK, and Sweden had high scores for both dimensions.

Conclusions: Patient groups reported that the European region is not on track to meet WHO 2030 HCV goals. More action should be taken to implement and monitor HCV policies.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0235715PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7386634PMC
September 2020

Normalised pain and severe health care delay among people who inject drugs in London: Adapting cultural safety principles to promote care.

Authors:
Magdalena Harris

Soc Sci Med 2020 09 9;260:113183. Epub 2020 Jul 9.

Department of Public Health, Environments and Society, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, WC1H 9SH, London, United Kingdom. Electronic address:

In the United Kingdom, increases in premature mortality among the intersecting populations of people made homeless and people who inject drugs map onto the implementation and solidification of fiscal austerity policies over the past decade, rather than drug market fluctuations and trends as in North America. In this context, it is crucial to explore how poverty, multi-morbidity and care delay interplay in exacerbating vulnerability to mortality among an aging population of people who use illicit drugs. The mixed methods Care & Prevent study generated survey data with 455 PWID and in-depth qualitative interviews with a subsample (n = 36). Participants were recruited though drug treatment services and homeless hostels in London from October 2017-June 2019. This paper focuses on qualitative findings, analysed thematically and contextualised in relation to the broader survey sample. Survey participants report an extensive history of rough sleeping (78%); injecting-related bacterial infections (65%) and related hospitalisation (30%). Qualitative accounts emphasise engagement with the medical system as a 'last resort', with admission to hospital in a critical or a "near death" condition common. For many severe physical pain and debility were normalised, incorporated into the day to day. In a context of everyday violence and marginalisation, avoidance of medical care can have a protective impetus. Translation of cultural safety principles to care for people who inject drugs in hospital settings offers transformative potential to reduce serious health harms among this population.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2020.113183DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7441308PMC
September 2020

Prevalence and severity of abscesses and cellulitis, and their associations with other health outcomes, in a community-based study of people who inject drugs in London, UK.

PLoS One 2020 14;15(7):e0235350. Epub 2020 Jul 14.

Department of Public Health, Environments & Society, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom.

Background: Skin and soft tissue infections (SSTI) are a common but preventable cause of morbidity and mortality among people who inject drugs (PWID). They can be severe, and hospitalisations of PWID with SSTI are rising. The most common SSTI presentations are abscesses and cellulitis.

Methods: We used data from Care & Prevent, a cross-sectional community survey of PWID in London. We reported the lifetime prevalence of SSTI, severity of infections, key risk factors, and associated sequelae. Pictorial questions were used to assess SSTI severity.

Results: We recruited 455 PWID. SSTI lifetime prevalence was high: 64% reported an abscess and/or cellulitis. Over one-third (37%) reported a severe infection, 137 (47%) reported hospitalisation. SSTIrisk factors were: aged 35+ years, injecting once or more times a day, subcutaneous or intra-muscular injections, and making four or more attempts to achieve an injection. Those who reported having other health conditions were at higher odds of having an abscess or cellulitis, with risk tending to increase with number of reported conditions. Half (46%) employed self-care for their worst SSTI, and 43% waited for ten or more days before seeking medical care or not seeking medical care at all.

Conclusions: Abscess and cellulitis are very common among PWID in London. We corroborate findings indicating SSTIs are associated with risks, e.g. venous access problems, as well as other co-morbid conditions: septicaemia, endocarditis, DVT, and kidney disease. These co-morbidities may impact SSTIs severity and outcomes. Delayed healthcare seeking potentially exacerbates infection severity, which in turn increases poorer health outcomes and complications.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0235350PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7360031PMC
September 2020

An urgent impetus for action: safe inhalation interventions to reduce COVID-19 transmission and fatality risk among people who smoke crack cocaine in the United Kingdom.

Authors:
Magdalena Harris

Int J Drug Policy 2020 09 22;83:102829. Epub 2020 Jun 22.

Department of Public Health, Environments and Society, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, WC1H 9SH, London, United Kingdom. Electronic address:

Crack cocaine use is rising in the United Kingdom (UK), with smoking the primary form of administration. Provision of safe inhalation equipment for crack cocaine is prohibited under UK law. Pipes used for crack cocaine smoking are often homemade and/or in short supply, exacerbating COVID-19 transmission and respiratory risk. This is of concern, given high prevalence of respiratory health harms such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) among people who smoke illegal drugs. This commentary draws on scoping review and mixed method empirical evidence to argue for provision of safe crack inhalation equipment in the UK, with commensurate legal reform. Review of crack inhalation interventions illustrates the health protective and service engagement benefits of smoking equipment supply. Survey data generated with 455 people who inject drugs in London illustrate high prevalence of current crack use (66%, n=299). Qualitative accounts illustrate perceptions of relative smoking safety - alongside accounts of severe respiratory-related health harms. To date, injecting drug use has been of primary concern in relation to harm reduction initiatives. It is crucial that people who smoke illegal drugs are considered a vulnerable population in regard to COVID 19 transmission and fatality risk, with innovative harm reduction measures scaled up in response.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102829DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7306748PMC
September 2020

Factors associated with skin and soft tissue infections among people who inject drugs in the United Kingdom: A comparative examination of data from two surveys.

Drug Alcohol Depend 2020 Jun 3;213:108080. Epub 2020 Jun 3.

National Infection Service, Public Health England, London, United Kingdom.

Background: People who inject drugs (PWID) are at high risk of injection-related skin and soft tissue infections (SSTI). If not treated promptly, these can lead to serious health complications, which are a considerable healthcare burden. Data from two community surveys, with different approaches, were used to assess SSTI prevalence and associated factors among PWID to inform intervention implementation.

Methods: Data were analysed from two surveys, a national surveillance survey (n=2,874; 2017-18) of infections among PWID in the United Kingdom (UK) and an in-depth survey (n=455; 2018-19) of SSTI among PWID based in London, UK. Multivariable logistic regression models were constructed to ascertain the factors associated with self-reported SSTI.

Results: High prevalence of SSTI were reported in both samples: 52 % of participants from the national surveillance survey reported having SSTI within the preceding 12 months and 65 % of the London sample reported a lifetime history of SSTI. The factors associated with SSTI in both surveys were similar, including older age; number of years injecting; number of attempts required to inject into the vein; injecting into the hands, feet, groin or neck and re-using or sharing needles/syringes.

Conclusions: The number of PWID reporting SSTI in the UK is concerningly high. The two surveys used different recruitment approaches but found similar associations. We provide strong evidence of a relationship between venous access difficulty and SSTI. To stem the increase of SSTI and related complications in the UK, it is crucial that interventions attend to the underlying causes of venous damage among PWID.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2020.108080DOI Listing
June 2020

Correction to: Navigating environmental constraints to injection preparation: the use of saliva and other alternatives to sterile water among unstably housed PWID in London.

Harm Reduct J 2020 06 9;17(1):38. Epub 2020 Jun 9.

School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, 513 Parnassus Ave, San Francisco, CA, 94143-0410, USA.

An amendment to this paper has been published and can be accessed via the original article.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12954-020-00388-xDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7282092PMC
June 2020

More-than-harm reduction: Engaging with alternative ontologies of 'movement' in UK drug services.

Int J Drug Policy 2020 08 6;82:102771. Epub 2020 Jun 6.

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom.

Over the last ten years, UK drug policy has moved towards making abstinence-based recovery rather than harm reduction its primary focus. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork involving participant observations and interviews at two London drug services, we explore how this shift towards recovery materialises through the practices of drug service delivery as an 'evidence-making intervention'. We understand recovery's making in terms of 'movement'. Where previous policies performed harm reduction through 'getting people into treatment' and 'keeping them safe in treatment', new policies were said to be about 'moving people through treatment'. Approaching movement as a sociomaterial process, we observe how movement is enacted in both narrow ways, towards abstinence from drugs, and more open ways, in what we call 'more-than-harm reduction'. We think of the latter as a speculative practice of doing or 'tinkering with' recovery to afford a care for clients not bound to abstinence-based outcomes. This is important given the limits associated with a recovery-orientated policy impetus. By engaging with these alternative ontologies of movement, we highlight an approach to intervening that both subverts and adheres to perceptions of recovery, embracing its movement, while remaining critical to its vision of abstinence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102771DOI Listing
August 2020

Incidence and treatment costs of severe bacterial infections among people who inject heroin: A cohort study in South London, England.

Drug Alcohol Depend 2020 07 6;212:108057. Epub 2020 May 6.

National Addiction Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, 4 Windsor Walk, Camberwell, London SE5 8AF, UK; South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, Monks Orchard Road Beckenham, London BR3 3BX, UK; Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Melbourne School of Global and Population Health, Level 3, 207 Bouverie Street, The University of Melbourne Victoria 3010 Australia; RAND Europe, Westbrook Centre, Milton Road, Cambridge CB4 1YG, UK.

Background: People who inject drugs often get bacterial infections. Few longitudinal studies have reported the incidence and treatment costs of these infections.

Methods: For a cohort of 2335 people who inject heroin entering treatment for drug dependence between 2006 and 2017 in London, England, we reported the rates of hospitalisation or death with primary causes of cutaneous abscess, cellulitis, phlebitis, septicaemia, osteomyelitis, septic arthritis, endocarditis, or necrotising fasciitis. We compared these rates to the general population. We also used NHS reference costs to calculate the cost of admissions.

Results: During a median of 8.0 years of follow-up, 24 % of patients (570/2335) had a severe bacterial infection, most commonly presenting with cutaneous abscesses or cellulitis. Bacterial infections accounted for 13 % of all hospital admissions. The rate was 73 per 1000 person-years (95 % CI 69-77); 50 times the general population, and the rate remained high throughout follow-up. The rate of severe bacterial infections for women was 1.50 (95 % CI 1.32-1.69) times the rate for men. The mean cost per admission was £4980, and we estimate that the annual cost of hospital treatment for people who inject heroin in London is £4.5 million.

Conclusions: People who inject heroin have extreme and long-term risk of severe bacterial infections.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2020.108057DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7301433PMC
July 2020

Navigating environmental constraints to injection preparation: the use of saliva and other alternatives to sterile water among unstably housed PWID in London.

Harm Reduct J 2020 04 10;17(1):24. Epub 2020 Apr 10.

School of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, 513 Parnassus Ave, San Francisco, CA, 94143-0410, USA.

Background: The United Kingdom is experiencing an increase in drug-related deaths and serious bacterial infections among its most vulnerable citizens. Cuts to essential services, coupled with a growing homeless population, create a challenging environment to tackle this public health crisis. In this paper, we highlight an underexplored environmental constraint faced by people living and injecting drugs on the streets. Access to water for injection is restricted in the UK, due to legislative and financial barriers. Austerity measures, such as public toilet closures, further restrict the ability of people made homeless to access clean water and protect themselves from health harms.

Methods: We generated questionnaire (n = 455) and in-depth qualitative interview (n = 32) data with people who inject drugs in London for the Care and Prevent study. Participants provided detail on their life history; drug use, injecting and living environments; health conditions and care seeking practices.

Findings: A high proportion of the survey sample reported lifetime history of street homelessness (78%), bacterial infections (65%) and related hospitalisation (30%). Qualitative accounts highlight unsafe, potentially dangerous, injection practices in semi-public spaces. Multiple constraints to sourcing sterile water for injection preparation were reported. Alternatives to sterile water included puddle water, toilet cistern water, whisky, cola soda and saliva. Participants who injected heroin and crack cocaine together unanimously reported adding water at two stages during injection preparation: first, adding water as a vehicle for heroin (which was then heated); second, adding cold water to the heroin mixture prior to adding the crack cocaine. This new finding of a stage addition of solvent may represent an additional risk of infection.

Conclusion: Currently, harm reduction equipment and resources for safe injecting are not meeting the needs of people who inject drugs who are street homeless or unstably housed. Preparation of injections with non-sterile water sources could precipitate bacterial and fungal infections, particularly when used without the application of heat. It is crucial that water for injection, also skin cleaning, is made available for the unstably housed and that harm reduction messaging is tailored to speak to the everyday realities of people who prepare and inject drugs in public spaces.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12954-020-00369-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7145770PMC
April 2020

Commentary on Hancock et al. (2020): Low dead space syringes are just one component of an integrated package of care needed to tackle HCV and social exclusion among people who inject drugs.

Addiction 2020 04 17;115(4):714-715. Epub 2020 Jan 17.

Faculty of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/add.14918DOI Listing
April 2020

Injecting-related health harms and overuse of acidifiers among people who inject heroin and crack cocaine in London: a mixed-methods study.

Harm Reduct J 2019 11 13;16(1):60. Epub 2019 Nov 13.

Public Health Institute, Liverpool John Moores University, Tithebarn Street, Liverpool, L2 2QP, UK.

Background: Venous access is a priority for people who inject drugs (PWID). Damage and scarring of peripheral veins can exacerbate health harms, such as skin and soft tissue infections (SSTI), and promote transitions to femoral and subcutaneous injecting. Brown heroin available in Europe requires acidification for injection preparation. In this paper, we present mixed-methods data to explore our hypothesis of a link between overly acidic injection solutions, venous damage and SSTI risk.

Methods: We present a structured survey (n = 455) and in-depth qualitative interview (n = 31) data generated with PWID in London for the Care & Prevent study. Participants provided life history data and detail on injecting environments and drug preparation practices, including the use of acidifiers. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were conducted using a logistic regression for binary outcomes to explore associations between outcomes and excessive acidifier use. Grounded theory principles informed inductive qualitative analysis. Mixed-methods triangulation was iterative with results comparison informing the direction and questions asked of further analyses.

Results: Of the 455 participants, most (92%) injected heroin and/or crack cocaine, with 84% using citric as their primary acid for drug preparation. Overuse of acidifier was common: of the 418 who provided an estimate, 36% (n = 150) used more than ½ a sachet, with 30% (n = 127) using a whole sachet or more. We found associations between acidifier overuse, femoral injecting and DVT, but not SSTI. Qualitative accounts highlight the role of poor heroin quality, crack cocaine use, information and manufacturing constraints in acidifier overuse. Painful injections and damage to peripheral veins were common and often attributed to the use of citric acid.

Conclusions: To reduce injecting-related injury and associated consequences, it is crucial to understand the interplay of environmental and practice-based risks underpinning venous damage among PWID. Overuse of acidifier is a modifiable risk factor. In the absence of structural supports such as safe injecting facilities or the prescribing of pharmaceutical diamorphine, there is an urgent need to revisit injecting paraphernalia design and distribution in order to alleviate health harms and distress among the most marginalised.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12954-019-0330-6DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6854679PMC
November 2019

Frequency of health-care utilization by adults who use illicit drugs: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

Addiction 2020 06 10;115(6):1011-1023. Epub 2020 Feb 10.

National Addictions Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, London, UK.

Aims: To summarize evidence on the frequency and predictors of health-care utilization among people who use illicit drugs.

Design: Systematic search of MEDLINE, EMBASE and PsychINFO for observational studies reporting health-care utilization published between 1 January 2000 and 3 December 2018. We conducted narrative synthesis and meta-analysis following a registered protocol (identifier: CRD42017076525).

Setting And Participants: People who use heroin, powder cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamine, ecstasy/3,4-methyl​enedioxy​methamphetamine (MDMA), cannabis, hallucinogens or novel psychoactive substances; have a diagnosis of 'substance use disorder'; or use drug treatment services.

Measurements: Primary outcomes were the cumulative incidence (risk) and rate of care episodes in three settings: primary care, hospital admissions (in-patient) and emergency department (ED).

Findings: Ninety-two studies were included, 84% from North America and Australia. Most studies focused on people using heroin, methamphetamine or crack cocaine, or who had a diagnosis of drug dependence. We were able to conduct a meta-analysis of rates across 25 studies reporting ED episodes and 25 reporting hospital admissions, finding pooled rates of 151 [95% confidence interval (CI) = 114-201] and 41 (95% CI = 30-57) per 100 person-years, respectively; on average 4.8 and 7.1 times more often than the general population. Heterogeneity was very high and was not explained by drugs used, country of study, recruitment setting or demographic characteristics. Predictors of health-care utilization were consistent across studies and included unstable housing, drug injection and mental health problems. Opioid substitution therapy was consistently associated with reduced ED presentation and hospital admission. There was minimal research on health-care utilization by people using ecstasy/MDMA, powder cocaine, hallucinogens or novel psychoactive substances.

Conclusions: People who use illicit drugs are admitted to emergency department or hospital several times more often than the general population.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/add.14892DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7210080PMC
June 2020

Evaluating the population impact of hepatitis C direct acting antiviral treatment as prevention for people who inject drugs (EPIToPe) - a natural experiment (protocol).

BMJ Open 2019 09 24;9(9):e029538. Epub 2019 Sep 24.

Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK.

Introduction: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the second largest contributor to liver disease in the UK, with injecting drug use as the main risk factor among the estimated 200 000 people currently infected. Despite effective prevention interventions, chronic HCV prevalence remains around 40% among people who inject drugs (PWID). New direct-acting antiviral (DAA) HCV therapies combine high cure rates (>90%) and short treatment duration (8 to 12 weeks). Theoretical mathematical modelling evidence suggests HCV treatment scale-up can prevent transmission and substantially reduce HCV prevalence/incidence among PWID. Our primary aim is to generate empirical evidence on the effectiveness of HCV 'Treatment as Prevention' (TasP) in PWID.

Methods And Analysis: We plan to establish a natural experiment with Tayside, Scotland, as a single intervention site where HCV care pathways are being expanded (including specialist drug treatment clinics, needle and syringe programmes (NSPs), pharmacies and prison) and HCV treatment for PWID is being rapidly scaled-up. Other sites in Scotland and England will act as potential controls. Over 2 years from 2017/2018, at least 500 PWID will be treated in Tayside, which simulation studies project will reduce chronic HCV prevalence among PWID by 62% (from 26% to 10%) and HCV incidence will fall by approximately 2/3 (from 4.2 per 100 person-years (p100py) to 1.4 p100py). Treatment response and re-infection rates will be monitored. We will conduct focus groups and interviews with service providers and patients that accept and decline treatment to identify barriers and facilitators in implementing TasP. We will conduct longitudinal interviews with up to 40 PWID to assess whether successful HCV treatment alters their perspectives on and engagement with drug treatment and recovery. Trained peer researchers will be involved in data collection and dissemination. The primary outcome - chronic HCV prevalence in PWID - is measured using information from the Needle Exchange Surveillance Initiative survey in Scotland and the Unlinked Anonymous Monitoring Programme in England, conducted at least four times before and three times during and after the intervention. We will adapt Bayesian synthetic control methods (specifically the Causal Impact Method) to generate the cumulative impact of the intervention on chronic HCV prevalence and incidence. We will use a dynamic HCV transmission and economic model to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of the HCV TasP intervention, and to estimate the contribution of the scale-up in HCV treatment to observe changes in HCV prevalence. Through the qualitative data we will systematically explore key mechanisms of TasP real world implementation from provider and patient perspectives to develop a manual for scaling up HCV treatment in other settings. We will compare qualitative accounts of drug treatment and recovery with a 'virtual cohort' of PWID linking information on HCV treatment with Scottish Drug treatment databases to test whether DAA treatment improves drug treatment outcomes.

Ethics And Dissemination: Extending HCV community care pathways is covered by ethics (ERADICATE C, ISRCTN27564683, Super DOT C Trial clinicaltrials.gov: NCT02706223). Ethical approval for extra data collection from patients including health utilities and qualitative interviews has been granted (REC ref: 18/ES/0128) and ISCRCTN registration has been completed (ISRCTN72038467). Our findings will have direct National Health Service and patient relevance; informing prioritisation given to early HCV treatment for PWID. We will present findings to practitioners and policymakers, and support design of an evaluation of HCV TasP in England.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2019-029538DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6773339PMC
September 2019

The Hepatitis C Awareness Through to Treatment (HepCATT) study: improving the cascade of care for hepatitis C virus-infected people who inject drugs in England.

Addiction 2019 06 12;114(6):1113-1122. Epub 2019 Mar 12.

NIHR Nottingham Biomedical Research Centre, Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and the University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK.

Background And Aims: Previous studies have shown low rates of diagnosis and treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection in people who inject drugs (PWID). Our aims were to test the effect of a complex intervention [Hepatitis C Awareness Through to Treatment (HepCATT)] in drug and alcohol clinics-primarily, on engagement of HCV-positive PWID with therapy and, secondarily, on testing for HCV, referral to hepatology services and start of HCV treatment.

Design And Setting: A non-randomized pilot study in three specialist addiction clinics in England comparing an intervention year (starting between September 2015 and February 2016) with a baseline year (2014), together with three control clinics.

Participants: Analysis included all attendees at the intervention and control specialist addiction clinics identified as PWID.

Intervention: The intervention comprised the placement of a half-time facilitator in each clinic for 12 months with the brief to increase diagnosis of HCV infection within clients at those services and the engagement of diagnosed individuals with an appropriate care pathway. The facilitator undertook various activities, which could include training of key workers, direct interaction with clients, streamlining and support for hepatology appointments and introduction of dried blood-spot testing.

Measurements: For each clinic and period, we obtained the total number of clients and, as relevant, their status as PWID, tested for HCV, known HCV-positive, engaged with HCV therapy or treated.

Findings: Compared with baseline, there was strong evidence that engagement with HCV therapy in the intervention year increased (P < 0.001) more in the HepCATT centres than controls, up 31 percentage points [95% confidence interval (CI) = 19-43] versus -12 (CI = -31 to 6) and odds ratio (OR) = 9.99 (CI = 4.42-22.6) versus 0.35 (CI = 0.08-1.56). HepCATT centres also had greater increases in HCV testing (OR = 3.06 versus 0.78, P < 0.001), referral to hepatology (OR = 9.60 versus 0.56, P < 0.001) and treatment initiation (OR = 9.5 versus 0.74, P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Introducing a half-time facilitator into drug and alcohol clinics in England increased engagement of HCV-positive people who inject drugs with hepatitis C virus care pathways, with increased uptake also of testing, referral to hepatology and initiation of treatment.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/add.14569DOI Listing
June 2019

Caring and curing: Considering the effects of hepatitis C pharmaceuticalisation in relation to non-clinical treatment outcomes.

Int J Drug Policy 2018 10 6;60:24-32. Epub 2018 Aug 6.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, WC1H 9SH, United Kingdom.

Background: The development of simplified and effective hepatitis C (HCV) pharmaceuticals enables treatment scale up among the most marginalised. This potentiates a promise of viral elimination at the population level but also individual level clinical and non-clinical benefits. Reports of transformative non-clinical outcomes, such as changes in self-worth and substance use, are primarily associated with arduous interferon-based treatments that necessitate intensive care relationships. We consider the implications of simplified treatment provision in the era of direct acting antivirals (DAAs) for the realisation of non-clinical benefits.

Methods: We draw on qualitative data from ethnographic observations and longitudinal interviews with people receiving (n = 22) and providing (n = 10) HCV treatment in London during a transition in HCV biomedicine. First generation DAAs in conjunction with interferon were standard of care for most of this time, with the promise of simplified treatment provision on the horizon.

Findings: Patient accounts of care accentuate the transformative value of interferon-based HCV treatment derived through non-clinical benefits linked to identity and lifestyle change. Such care is constituted as extending beyond the virus and its biomedical effects, with nurse specialists positioned as vital to this care being realised. Provider accounts emphasise the increased pharmaceuticalisation of HCV treatment; whereby care shifts from the facilitation of therapeutic relationships to pharmaceutical access.

Conclusion: HCV care in the interferon-era affords identity transformations for those receiving and providing treatment. Biomedical promise linked to the increasing pharmaceuticalisation of HCV treatment has disruptive potential, shifting how care is practised and potentially the realisation of non-clinical treatment outcomes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2018.07.015DOI Listing
October 2018

A qualitative assessment of the acceptability of hepatitis C remote self-testing and self-sampling amongst people who use drugs in London, UK.

BMC Infect Dis 2018 06 19;18(1):281. Epub 2018 Jun 19.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.

Background: Hepatitis C (HCV) diagnosis and care is a major challenge for people who use illicit drugs, and is characterised by low rates of testing and treatment engagement globally. New approaches to fostering engagement are needed. We explored the acceptability of remote forms of HCV testing including self-testing and self-sampling among people who use drugs in London, UK.

Methods: A qualitative rapid assessment was undertaken with people who use drugs and stakeholders in London, UK. Focus groups were held with men who have sex with men engaged in drug use, people who currently inject drugs and people who formerly injected drugs (22 participants across the 3 focus groups). Stakeholders participated in semi-structured interviews (n = 5). We used a thematic analysis to report significant themes in participants' responses.

Results: We report an overarching theme of 'tension' in how participants responded to the acceptability of remote testing. This tension is evident across four separate sub-themes we explore. First, choice and control, with some valuing the autonomy and privacy remote testing could support. Second, the ease of use of self testing linked to its immediate result and saliva sample was preferred over the delayed result from a self administered blood sample tested in a laboratory. Third, many respondents described the need to embed remote testing within a supportive care pathway. Fourth, were concerns over managing a positive result, and its different meanings, in isolation.

Conclusions: The concept of remote HCV testing is acceptable to some people who use drugs in London, although tensions with lived experience of drug use and health system access limit its relevance. Future development of remote testing must respond to concerns raised in order for acceptable implementation to take place.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12879-018-3185-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6006927PMC
June 2018

Fentanyl self-testing outside supervised injection settings to prevent opioid overdose: Do we know enough to promote it?

Int J Drug Policy 2018 08 12;58:31-36. Epub 2018 May 12.

Faculty of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom; Centre for Social Research in Health, University of New South Wales, Australia.

Since 2013, North America has experienced a sharp increase in unintentional fatal overdoses: fentanyl, and its analogues, are believed to be primarily responsible. Currently, the most practical means for people who use drugs (PWUD) to avoid or mitigate risk of fentanyl-related overdose is to use drugs in the presence of someone who is in possession of, and experienced using, naloxone. Self-test strips which detect fentanyl, and some of its analogues, have been developed for off-label use allowing PWUD to test their drugs prior to consumption. We review the evidence on the off-label sensitivity and specificity of fentanyl test strips, and query whether the accuracy of fentanyl test strips might be mediated according to situated practices of use. We draw attention to the weak research evidence informing the use of fentanyl self-testing strips.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2018.04.017DOI Listing
August 2018

Drawing attention to a neglected injecting-related harm: a systematic review of AA amyloidosis among people who inject drugs.

Addiction 2018 10 8;113(10):1790-1801. Epub 2018 Jun 8.

Department of Public Health, Environments and Society, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK.

Background And Aims: Chronic skin and soft tissue infections (SSTI) among people who inject drugs (PWID) can lead to AA amyloidosis: a serious, yet neglected, multi-organ disease. We aim to synthesize findings on the epidemiology, risk factors, clinical outcomes, screening recommendations and challenges to treatment for AA amyloidosis among PWID.

Methods: A systematic review was conducted in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA). We searched the following bibliographic databases in July 2017: CINAHL Plus, Embase, Global Health, MEDLINE, PsycEXTRA, PsycINFO and SCOPUS. Studies were included if they investigated AA amyloidosis in PWID. Studies were not restricted to location, study type, year or language of publication. Study heterogeneity precluded meta-analysis; we present a narrative review of the literature.

Results: Thirty-seven papers from eight countries met inclusion criteria. A total of 781 PWID are reported on, of whom 177 had AA amyloidosis. Where disease causality is established, it is attributed to chronic inflammation caused by injecting-related SSTIs. Most (88.7%) PWID with AA amyloidosis had SSTIs. The proportion of PWID with AA amyloidosis at post-mortem ranged from 1.6% (Germany) to 22.5% (Serbia). Biopsy studies reported from 5.26% (Portugal) to 50% (Germany) of AA amyloidosis in PWID with suspected or known kidney disease. Following diagnosis, the typical trajectory for PWID with AA amyloidosis was rapid deterioration of renal function requiring haemodialysis. Treatment difficulties, end-stage renal failure and premature death from sepsis were observed. Good outcomes, including reversibility of AA amyloidosis, are attributed to rapid treatment of the underlining inflammation and injecting cessation. Notably, given the population in question, no studies were published in addiction or harm reduction journals; most (92%) appeared in specialist nephrology and medical journals.

Conclusion: There is strong evidence of an association between skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) and AA amyloidosis. Among people who inject drugs, injecting-related SSTIs are a significant cause of morbidity and premature mortality and there is evidence of increasing SSTI prevalence. Limitations in the literature make it difficult to estimate AA amyloidosis prevalence among people who inject drugs.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/add.14257DOI Listing
October 2018

Hep-CORE: a cross-sectional study of the viral hepatitis policy environment reported by patient groups in 25 European countries in 2016 and 2017.

J Int AIDS Soc 2018 04;21 Suppl 2:e25052

Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), Hospital Clínic, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain.

Introduction: The first World Health Organization (WHO) global health sector strategy on hepatitis B and C viruses (HBV and HCV) has called for the elimination of viral hepatitis as a major public health threat by 2030. This study assesses policies and programmes in support of elimination efforts as reported by patient groups in Europe.

Methods: In 2016 and 2017, hepatitis patient groups in 25 European countries participated in a cross-sectional survey about their countries' policy responses to HBV and HCV. The English-language survey addressed overall national response; public awareness/engagement; disease monitoring; prevention; testing/diagnosis; clinical assessment; and treatment. We performed a descriptive analysis of data and compared 2016 and 2017 findings.

Results: In 2017, 72% and 52% of the 25 European study countries were reported to not have national HBV and HCV strategies respectively. The number of respondents indicating that their governments collaborated with civil society on viral hepatitis control increased from 13 in 2016 to 18 in 2017. In both 2016 and 2017, patient groups reported that 9 countries (36%) have disease registers for HBV and 11 (44%) have disease registers for HCV. The number of countries reported to have needle and syringe exchange programmes available in all parts of the country dropped from 10 (40%) in 2016 to 8 in 2017 (32%). In both 2016 and 2017, patient groups in 5 countries (20%) reported that HCV treatment is available in non-hospital settings. From 2016 to 2017, the reported number of countries with no restrictions on access to direct-acting antivirals for HCV increased from 3 (12%) to 7 (28%), and 5 fewer countries were reported to refuse treatment to people who are currently injecting drugs.

Conclusions: The patient-led Hep-CORE study offers a unique perspective on the readiness of study countries to undertake comprehensive viral hepatitis elimination efforts. Viral hepatitis monitoring should be expanded to address policy issues more comprehensively and to incorporate civil society perspectives, as is the case with global HIV monitoring. Policy components should also be explicitly added to the WHO framework for monitoring country-level progress against viral hepatitis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jia2.25052DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5978657PMC
April 2018

"It's Not Much of a Life": The Benefits and Ethics of Using Life History Methods With People Who Inject Drugs in Qualitative Harm Reduction Research.

Qual Health Res 2018 06 20;28(7):1123-1134. Epub 2018 Mar 20.

1 London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom.

A life history approach enables study of how risk or health protection is shaped by critical transitions and turning points in a life trajectory and in the context of social environment and time. We employed visual and narrative life history methods with people who inject drugs to explore how hepatitis C protection was enabled and maintained over the life course. We overview our methodological approach, with a focus on the ethics in practice of using life history timelines and life-grids with 37 participants. The life-grid evoked mixed emotions for participants: pleasure in receiving a personalized visual history and pain elicited by its contents. A minority managed this pain with additional heroin use. The methodological benefits of using life history methods and visual aids have been extensively reported. Crucial to consider are the ethical implications of this process, particularly for people who lack socially ascribed markers of a "successful life."
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1049732318764393DOI Listing
June 2018

Risk Environments and the Ethics of Reducing Drug-Related Harms.

Am J Bioeth 2017 12;17(12):46-48

a London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15265161.2017.1388870DOI Listing
December 2017

Opiate Injection-Associated Skin, Soft Tissue, and Vascular Infections, England, UK, 1997-2016.

Emerg Infect Dis 2017 08;23(8):1400-1403

In England, UK, hospital admissions caused by bacterial infections associated with opioid use have increased annually since 2012, after 9 years of decline, mirroring trends in overdose deaths. The increase occurred among persons of both sexes and in all age groups and suggests preventive measures need reviewing.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid2308.170439DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5547794PMC
August 2017

Tensions in relation: How peer support is experienced and received in a hepatitis C treatment intervention.

Int J Drug Policy 2017 09 9;47:221-229. Epub 2017 Jun 9.

Faculty of Public Health and Policy, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, London, WC1H 9SH, United Kingdom.

Background: Peer support and involvement is recognised as a vital component of hepatitis C (HCV) treatment provision for marginalised populations, such as people who inject drugs (PWID). Developments in HCV treatments enable increased provision in community settings - expanding the possibilities for meaningful peer involvement in HCV treatment plans. To date, HCV peer support has generally been viewed as a positive intervention, with little critical reflection on the ways social structures, policies, health and drug services and social identity impact on how peer support is experienced and received.

Methods: We report on the qualitative component of a UK-based intervention designed to increase HCV diagnosis and treatment in primary care and drug treatment settings. Data were collected between 2014 and 2016. Pre-intervention, a total of 35 PWID clients took part in nine in-depth interviews and four focus groups. In addition, 22 drug services and intervention providers took part in two focus groups and nine interviews. Post-intervention, one focus group and eight interviews were conducted with 13 PWID clients, and four focus groups and ten interviews were conducted with 26 drug services and intervention providers. Our data generation and thematic analysis focused on the peer education and buddy support component of the intervention.

Results: Participants had common expectations of the peer role (to 'just be there') and its occupants' attributes (empathy, trustworthy, etc.). However, in practice, peers faced constraints on realising these expectations. A 'recovery' dominated drug treatment ethos in the UK appeared to influence the selection of 'recovery champions' as peers for the intervention. This created tensions in relations with clients, particularly when risk-adverse discourses were internalised by the peers. Peers were poorly integrated and supported within the service, affecting opportunities to relate and build trust with clients. Thus, the scope for peer support to impact on the nature and extent of clients' testing and treatment for HCV was limited.

Conclusion: The efficacy of peer involvement can be constrained by organisational structures and boundaries - especially regarding who is deemed to be 'a peer'. Peer programmes take time and care to implement and weave into wider recovery and harm reduction frameworks.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.05.031DOI Listing
September 2017

Managing expense and expectation in a treatment revolution: Problematizing prioritisation through an exploration of hepatitis C treatment 'benefit'.

Authors:
Magdalena Harris

Int J Drug Policy 2017 09 25;47:161-168. Epub 2017 Apr 25.

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, London WC1H9SH, UK. Electronic address:

Background: Direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) have transformed the hepatitis C (HCV) treatment landscape. These highly effective drugs are, however, not available to all. In a context of DAA rationing, clinicians are advised to "manage patient expectations" about the benefits of a HCV cure. This directive particularly pertains to people with minimal liver damage and those who have ceased injecting: populations negated in contemporary prioritisation debates.

Methods: This paper engages with the assumptions underpinning HCV treatment prioritisation discourses to explore the concept of treatment 'benefit' from patient perspectives. Data are from a qualitative longitudinal study exploring treatment transitions and decision-making from 2012-2015. Participants comprised 28 people living with HCV, ten treatment providers and eight stakeholders, based in London, United Kingdom (UK). One hundred hours of clinic observations were conducted at two HCV treatment hospitals. Thematic analyses pertaining to treatment expectation and outcome inform this paper.

Results: Twenty-two participants commenced treatment. The majority who were unable to access DAAs chose to commence interferon-based treatment immediately rather than wait. Participants accounted for treatment urgency in relation to three interrelated narratives of hope and expectation. HCV treatment promised: social reconnection; social redemption and a return to 'normality'. For many with successful treatment outcomes, these benefits appeared to be realised.

Conclusion: The DAA era heralds a discursive shift: from 'managing [interferon] risk and difficulty' to 'managing [DAA] expense and expectation'. Calls to 'manage patient expectations' about the benefits of HCV cure are predicated on clinical benefits only, negating the social impacts of living with HCV. The public health priorities commonly articulated in treatment prioritisation debates are not consistent with those of people managing illness in their daily lives. During this 'treatment revolution' there is a need to be cognisant of the multiple publics living with the virus and the treatment needs of those who do not fit population-health scenarios.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2017.03.015DOI Listing
September 2017

The Berlin Hepatitis C Manifesto: access to prevention, testing, treatment and care for people who use drugs.

Hepatol Med Policy 2016 18;1:14. Epub 2016 Oct 18.

Fixpunkt e.V., Berlin, Germany.

The treatment of hepatitis C has entered a new era since the advent of curative pharmaceuticals. As policy, government and civil society assemble in response, there are still gaps to be addressed. The Manifesto on Hepatitis C and Drug Use, launched in Berlin during the Correlation Hepatitis C Initiative conference in October 2014, was formulated and endorsed by many key organizations in the hepatitis field. The Manifesto takes strides to pinpoint shortcomings in hepatitis action oriented towards the population most affected by the hepatitis C virus (HCV): active drug users. Despite a considerable amount of evidence that active drug users are disproportionately affected by HCV, barriers to care remain. Engagement with representatives of communities of people who inject drugs (PWID) is imperative in order to effectively create guidelines which reflect reality. Unfortunately, widespread systemic stigmatization and lack of trust between affected communities, decision-makers and healthcare professionals have reproduced this divide. The Berlin Manifesto has identified a disconnect between evidence and action which must be answered. In this roundtable discussion, experts from diverse parts of the hepatitis community have contributed their perspectives and experience on access to prevention, testing, and treatment for HCV in PWID. The authors discuss relevant topics such as realities of access to HCV treatment in the United Kingdom, interventions of a regional network of active drug users in Europe and lack of PWID involvement in government policy in Catalonia. Collectively they challenge the neglect of HCV in PWID by many decision-makers and health care professionals and promote a scale-up of integrated prevention and treatment strategies focusing on this population. The authors' conclusions aim to clarify the discourse on hepatitis in order to prevent disease, save lives and work towards eventual hepatitis elimination.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s41124-016-0021-9DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5918866PMC
October 2016

The promise of treatment as prevention for hepatitis C: Meeting the needs of people who inject drugs?

Int J Drug Policy 2015 Oct 4;26(10):963-9. Epub 2015 Jun 4.

Treatment Action Group, United States.

Treatment as prevention (TasP) is a concept common to the HIV sector. In this commentary we draw on the literature addressing HIV and HCV TasP, alongside qualitative HCV research, to critically appraise the promise of TasP for HCV and assess the needs of PWID in the future of HCV care. With the advent of highly effective direct-acting antiviral HCV treatments, TasP is now under consideration for HCV. A growing body of literature documents numerous social structural barriers to HCV treatment access and uptake for PWID, among whom HCV is highly prevalent. Yet these barriers - and suggestions for surmounting them - are rarely included in emergent literature on HCV TasP. Although HCV TasP has important advocacy potential for increasing treatment access among PWID, critical reflection on its implications are warranted. We outline potential limitations of TasP for HCV and the conditions under which it might be optimised. We argue that HCV treatment as a prevention strategy can only be realisable in a context of enhanced harm reduction access, meaningful community engagement, and enabling environment interventions informed by the needs and perspectives of PWID.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2015.05.005DOI Listing
October 2015
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