Recent advances in the treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection provide the possibility of eliminating HCV as a public health threat. This focus on HCV elimination through treatment, however, is also driving a concomitant focus on ‘achieving cure’ as the primary outcome of treatment. The aim of this paper is to explore what people who inject drugs consider to be important in relation to outcomes of HCV treatment, and whether there are outcomes ‘beyond cure’ that might be important to understand as part of improving engagement in treatment.
A peer researcher with experience of both HCV treatment and injecting drug use conducted interviews with 24 people in the following groups in Melbourne, Australia: (1) people who had refused or deferred HCV treatment; (2) people who were actively thinking about, planning and/or about to commence HCV treatment; (3) people currently undertaking HCV treatment and (4) people who had recently completed HCV treatment.
The findings show that people who inject drugs are seeking outcomes ‘beyond cure’ including improved physical and mental health, positive changes in identity and social relationships and managing future health and risk. Participants indicated that these other outcomes had not been addressed within their experience of HCV treatment.
While cure is an obvious outcome of HCV treatment, patients are seeking change in other areas of their lives. This study also provides valuable insights for the development of patient-reported measures in this context, which would be an important step towards more patient-centred approaches to HCV treatment.