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Exploring risk perception and behaviour of homeless injecting drug users diagnosed with hepatitis C

Lookup NU author(s): Louise Jones


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Injecting drug users (IDUs) are at the greatest risk of hepatitis C infection by using any item of injecting equipment that has come into contact with contaminated blood. Alongside this, homeless IDUs have been identified as being at increased risk of harm in their illicit drug taking behaviour. This study interviewed 17 hepatitis C positive homeless IDUs about their injecting practices. In-depth interviews explored the impact of a positive hepatitis C diagnosis on their injecting and identified their risk behaviours and perceptions. The interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed and analysed using the framework approach. Homeless IDUs engaged in both high risk and unhygienic injecting practices, such as using drugs outside and in public places, sharing injecting equipment and re-using cleaned needles. Excessive needle reuse whilst in prison was also identified. However, the findings were not universally bleak as a positive diagnosis of hepatitis C did lead to some behaviour change towards safer injecting and some adopted other lifestyle and behaviour changes. It was, however, common for homeless people to devolve responsibility for preventing hepatitis C transmission to their peers, especially when injecting with others. Knowledge regarding possible transmission through injecting paraphernalia appeared to make users more careful to reduce it through these routes. Placing a continuous emphasis on health promotion is therefore important in educating IDUs about the hepatitis C transmission risks associated with injecting drug use. Information regarding safer and hygienic use, including accurate information regarding the most effective methods to clean used equipment, must be re-enforced by people working with homeless injecting drug users.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wright NMJ, Tompkins CNE, Jones L

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Health and Social Care in the Community

Year: 2005

Volume: 13

Issue: 1

Pages: 75-83

ISSN (print): 0966-0410

ISSN (electronic): 1365-2524

Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.


DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2005.00552.x

PubMed id: 15717909


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