Hepatitis C Care: Check Your Biases at the Door

International Conference on Viral Hepatitis (ICVH) 2014

Helen-Maria Lekas, PhD; Gloria J. Searson, MSW; Alyson L. Harty, RN, BSN; William Thompson


June 23, 2014

In This Article

Persisting Barriers to Diagnosis and Treatment

Dr. Lekas: I'm very glad to hear that you don't internalize other people's stigmatizing attitudes. If we leave stigma aside, what are some of the other barriers that patients are encountering in getting care for HCV?

Ms. Searson: Patients don't have the same care teams available to them for HCV that they did for other diseases. One of the good things about HIV was that they had funding and manpower to help deal with teaching the patient things that the doctor may not have been able to get through to the patient, or convince the patient of the urgency of something. They even had someone there to provide the education and support so that they can buy into the fact that they had the disease. There are some systemic barriers that we have to fix in healthcare in general. It is disproportionately dispensed in different areas, in different ways, and we have to make sure that people can access the same things wherever they are geographically. That's one of the largest barriers. The treatments are good, but we can't just take them without understanding them. So, who is going to provide that education is the key.

Dr. Lekas: Do you think that patients with HCV know about the new treatments coming down the pipeline?

Ms. Harty: It varies. You have your highly educated patients who know that they have HCV and who have been following the disease and the press releases, and then you have patients who were told back in the late 1990s and early 2000s that they have this problem but nothing can be done about it. There is a wide variety, and we need re-education for those patients who were turned away from care. For example, they may have been told that because they were black or obese that the treatment wouldn't work for them. We need to relink these patients back to care, as well as screen the 80% of patients who we know haven't been tested.

Ms. Searson: The campaigning and awareness are out there for those who access social media or the Internet or who watch television, but there is a whole group of people who do not access information the way it is being disseminated. If you are not in the healthcare system or working with a substance abuse group, a senior population, or a veterans' group, you still may be out of the loop for hepatitis. We need the healthcare team around patients who get HCV to understand them as a whole -- where they are and what may or may not be necessary for this particular patient to get through treatment. The pills and the medications only address one barrier, and that's the biological barrier. They don't address the personal issues or the systemic barriers, and they certainly don't address the infrastructure and lack of healthcare providers able to deal with this disease.


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