Clients' perceptions of barriers and facilitators to implementing hepatitis C virus care in homeless shelters

BMC Infect Dis. 2020 May 29;20(1):386. doi: 10.1186/s12879-020-05103-6.


Background: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is highly prevalent among homeless persons, yet barriers continue to impede HCV testing and treatment in this population. We studied the experiences of homeless individuals related to accessing HCV care to inform the design of a shelter-based HCV prevention and treatment program.

Methods: Homeless shelter clients (10 women and 10 men) of a large shelter in San Francisco participated in gender segregated focus groups. Focus groups followed a semi-structured interview format, which assessed individual, program/system, and societal-level barriers and facilitators to universal HCV testing and linkage to HCV care. Focus group interviews were transcribed, coded, and analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results: We identified key barriers to HCV testing and treatment at the individual level (limited knowledge and misconceptions about HCV infection, mistrust of health care providers, co-morbid conditions of substance use, psychiatric and chronic medical conditions), system level (limited advocacy for HCV services by shelter staff), and social level (stigma of homelessness). Individual, system, and social facilitators to HCV care described by participants included internal motivation, financial incentives, prior experiences with rapid HCV testing, and availability of affordable direct acting antiviral (DAA) treatment, respectively.

Conclusions: Interrelated individual- and social-level factors were the predominant barriers affecting homeless persons' decisions to engage in HCV prevention and treatment. Integrated models of care for homeless persons at risk for or living with HCV address many of these factors, and should include interventions to improve patient knowledge of HCV and the availability of effective treatments.

Keywords: DAA treatment; Drug use; Focus group; HCV testing; Homeless; Mental illness.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Health Personnel
  • Health Plan Implementation*
  • Hepacivirus / immunology*
  • Hepatitis C / complications
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis C / prevention & control
  • Hepatitis C / psychology*
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies / blood
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • San Francisco / epidemiology
  • Social Stigma
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Hepatitis C Antibodies