Background: In an attempt to curtail the rising morbidity and mortality from undiagnosed HCV (hepatitis C virus) in the United States, screening guidelines have been expanded to high-risk individuals and persons born 1945-1965. Community-based screening may be one strategy in which to reach such persons; however, the acceptance of HCV testing, when many high-risk individuals may not have access to HCV specific medications, remains unknown.
Methods: We set out to assess attitudes about HCV screening and knowledge about HCV disease at several community-based testing sites that serve high-risk populations. This assessment was paired with a brief HCV educational intervention, followed by post-education evaluation.
Results: Participants (n = 140) were surveyed at five sites; two homeless shelters, two drug rehabilitation centers, and a women's "drop-in" center. Personal acceptance of HCV testing was almost unanimous, and 90% of participants reported that they would still want to be tested even if they were unable to receive HCV treatment. Baseline hepatitis C knowledge was poor; however, the brief educational intervention significantly improved knowledge and increased acceptability of testing when medical access issues were explicitly stated.
Conclusions: Despite inconsistencies in access to care and treatment, high-risk communities want to know their HCV status. Though baseline HCV knowledge was poor in this population, a brief on-site educational intervention improved both knowledge and acceptability of HCV testing and care. These data support the establishment of programs that utilize community-based screening, and also provide initial evidence for acceptance of the implementation of the recently expanded screening guidelines among marginalized communities.