Barriers and advocacy needs for hepatitis C services in prisons: Informing the prisons hepatitis C advocacy toolkit

Authors: Shelley J Walker, Lok B Shrestha , Andrew R Lloyd, Olivia Dawson, Yumi Sheehan, Julia Sheehan, Nonso B C Maduka, Joaquin Cabezasi,, Matthew J Akiyama, Nadine Kronfli, on behalf of INHSU Prisons

Journal: International Journal of Drug Policy Year: 2024 Reference: j.drugpo.2024.104386.




Carceral settings are a key focus of the 2030 WHO global hepatitis C virus (HCV) elimination goals. Despite this, access to HCV testing and treatment services in prisons remains low globally, limiting opportunities to achieve these goals. Advocacy efforts are needed to address service inequities and mobilise support for enhanced HCV programs in prisons globally. INHSU Prisons, a special interest group of the International Network on Health and Hepatitis in Substance Users (INHSU) is developing a Prisons HCV Advocacy Toolkit to address this need. Here we present findings of a mixed study to inform the development of the Toolkit.


The aim of this study was to inform the development of the Toolkit, including understanding barriers for scaling up prison-based HCV services globally and advocacy needs to address these. An online survey (n = 181) and in-depth interviews (n = 25) were conducted with key stakeholders from countries of different economic status globally. Quantitative data were statistically analysed using R Studio and qualitative data were analysed thematically. The data sets were merged using a convergent design.


Key barriers for enhanced prison-based HCV services included lack of political will and action, lack of prison-based healthcare resources, and poor awareness about HCV and the importance of prison-based HCV services. These findings underscore how advocacy efforts are needed to motivate policymakers to prioritise HCV healthcare in prisons and ensure funds are available for services (including diagnostic tools and treatment, healthcare teams to implement services, and systems to measure their success). Advocacy resources to raise the awareness of policy makers, people working in the prison sector, and incarcerated populations were also identified as key to increasing HCV service uptake.


The Toolkit has the potential to support advocacy efforts for reaching HCV elimination targets. By understanding the advocacy needs of potential Toolkit end-users, the findings can inform its development and increase its accessibility, acceptability, and uptake for a globally diverse audience.
Keywords: Hepatitis C virus; Hepatitis C elimination; Prisons; Carceral settings; People who inject drugs; Advocacy

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