Theme: Epidemiology & Public Health Research Year: 2018
Georgia, a country with a large burden of hepatitis C virus (HCV), launched an HCV elimination
program in 2015. People who inject drugs (PWID) are at highest risk of transmission as
documented by the national HCV seroprevalence survey. To improve linkage to care among
PWID, the Ministry of Labor, Health, and Social Affairs decided to pilot HCV treatment
integration with harm reduction (HR) services. However, there was concern about potential
resistance of employees at HR centers to the inherent added responsibilities. The aim of this
study was to evaluate attitudes and readiness of HR centers’ staff for integrated HCV treatment.
A self-administered questionnaire was used with questions regarding awareness of the HCV
elimination program, and perceived feasibility and barriers of implementing HCV integrated care
at HR centers. Managers, social workers, counselors, laboratory technicians, and nurses were
surveyed from eight harm reduction centers at six regions including the capital of Georgia,
Of a total 115 respondents surveyed, 49% (n=56) were female. The vast majority of surveyed
individuals (96% [n=110]) believe HCV treatment should be integrated with HR services.
Perceived benefits included convenience for PWIDs (74% [n=85]), improving trust in the
elimination program (67% [n=77]), improving linkage to HCV care (76% [n=87]), and improving
treatment compliance (56% [n=64]). Most (86% [n=99]) respondents thought that PWIDs would
prefer to have HCV treatment at HR centers compared to specialized clinics. Insufficient
administrative and technical resources were reported as major barriers to starting HCV
treatment at HR centers by 26% (n=30) and 62.6% (n=72) of respondents, respectively.
The study showed the readiness and willingness of HR centers’ staff to integrate HCV treatment
with other HR services at their facilities, as well as perceived barriers.
Disclosure of interest statement:
No conflict of interest to disclose.