Sigma Research

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

BMC Infectious Diseases, 2018; 18:281 (doi:10.1186/s12879-018-3185-7).

Authors: Andy Guise, T. Charles Witzel, Sema Mandal, Caroline Sabin, Tim Rhodes, Anthony Nardone and Magdalena Harris


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.

©  The Author(s). 2018

Received: 21 December 2017; Accepted: 6 June 2018; Published: 19 June 2018

Keywords: Hepatitis C, HCV, Remote testing, Self testing, People who use drugs, Rapid assessment, Qualitative

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