Although drug users are at elevated risk for hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, many are uniformed or misinformed about the virus. Drug treatment programs are uniquely situated to provide comprehensive risk-modifying educational programs for decreasing HCV transmission, a strategy advocated in the most recent National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference Statement on the Management of Hepatitis C. Given the large proportion of patients that inject drugs in methadone maintenance treatment programs and the high prevalence of HCV among drug injectors, we compared a nationwide sample (N = 246) of methadone maintenance treatment programs and drug-free programs regarding the content and comprehensiveness of HCV education. All of these programs provide HCV education to at least some of their patients. Results indicated that, compared to drug-free programs, methadone maintenance treatment programs cover a significantly greater number of HCV-related topics, and that a significantly greater proportion of the methadone programs cover specific topics (e.g., how to avoid transmitting HCV, the importance of testing for HCV, treatment options if HCV positive). Of special concern is that fewer than three quarters of the drug-free programs address what to do if co-infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and HCV and how to maintain health if HCV positive, and only about half of the drug-free and methadone maintenance treatment programs educate HCV-positive patients about the importance of obtaining vaccinations for hepatitis A and B. Drug treatment programs need to educate patients about the proactive steps these individuals can take to deal with HCV, provide critically needed HCV services, and encourage patients to make full use of these services.
The content and comprehensiveness of hepatitis C education in methadone maintenance and drug-free treatment units