tion about hepatitis C. In spite of the disproportionate prevalence of HCV infection in drug users, research conducted with 280 patients who never injected drugs (non-injection-drug users, NIDUs) and past or current IDUs in 14 US drug-treatment programs showed that many remain uninformed or misinformed about the disease (Strauss et al., 2007). The 280 participating patients scored, on the average, 56% on a 20-item true–false HCV knowledge assessment, demonstrating inadequate knowledge about hepatitis C. IDUs scored significantly higher, on the average, than did NIDUs (60% vs 51%), but their scores also suggest many gaps in their knowledge about hepatitis C. Fewer than half of all the patients correctly endorsed facts concerning HCV transmission, the duration of hepatitis C treatment, the potential effectiveness of hepatitis C medication in active drug users, the course of HCV infection, and the possibility of spontaneous clearance of the infection.

To address the knowledge gaps, all the programs offered at least one form of hepatitis C education: all offered one-on-one sessions with staff, 12 of the programs offered hepatitis C education in a group format, and 11 offered education through pamphlets and books. However, only 60% of all the participating patients used any of their programs’ hepatitis C education services. Those who did avail themselves of the hepatitis C education opportunities generally assessed them favorably. Of all the patients, many were unaware that hepatitis C education was offered in their programs through individual sessions with staff, group meetings, and books and pamphlets (42%, 49%, and 46% of the patients, respectively), and 22% were unaware that any hepatitis C education opportunities existed (Strauss et al., 2007). Thus, efforts need to focus especially on ensuring that all drug-treatment program patients are made aware of and encouraged to use hepatitis C education services in their programs. Such awareness and encouragement, however, will be useful only if staff of drug-treatment programs have up-to-date knowledge about the virus and treatment options so that they can share hepatitis C information with their patients accurately.

Recommendation

On the basis of the above findings, the committee offers the following recommendation to increase educational and awareness opportunities about hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

Recommendation 3-2. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should work with key stakeholders to develop, coordinate, and evaluate innovative and effective outreach and education programs to target at-risk populations and to increase awareness in the general population about hepatitis B and hepatitis C.



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