Background—Hepatitis C virus (HCV) remains a major contributor to morbidity and mortality worldwide. Since 2009, Kentucky has led the United States in cases of acute HCV, driven largely by injection drug use in rural areas. Improved treatment regimens hold promise of mitigating the impact and transmission of HCV, but numerous barriers obstruct people who inject drugs (PWID) from receiving care, particularly in medically underserved settings.

Methods—503 rural people who use drugs were recruited using respondent-driven sampling and received HCV screening and post-test counseling. Presence of HCV antibodies was assessed using enzyme immunoassay of dried blood samples. Sociodemographic and behavioral data were collected using computer-based questionnaires. Predictors of contacting a healthcare provider for follow-up following HCV-positive serotest and counseling were determined using discrete-time survival analysis.

Results—150 (59%) of 254 participants reported contacting a healthcare provider within 18 months of positive serotest and counseling; the highest probability occurred within six months of serotesting. 35 participants (14%) reported they were seeking treatment, and 21 (8%) reported receiving treatment. In multivariate time-dependent modeling, health insurance, internet access, prior substance use treatment, meeting DSM-IV criteria for generalized anxiety disorder, and recent marijuana use increased the odds of making contact for follow-up. Participants meeting criteria for major depressive disorder and reporting prior methadone use, whether legal or illegal, were less likely to contact a provider.

Conclusion—While only 8% received treatment after HCV-positive screening, contacting a healthcare provider was frequent in this sample of rural PWID, suggesting that the major barriers to care are likely further downstream. These findings offer insight into the determinants of engaging the cascade of medical treatment for HCV and ultimately, treatment-as-prevention. Further study and increased resources to support integrated interventions with effectiveness in other settings are recommended to mitigate the impact of HCV in this resource-deprived setting.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in International Journal of Drug Policy, v. 47, p. 86-94.

© 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

This manuscript version is made available under the CC‐BY‐NC‐ND 4.0 license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/.

The document available for download is the author's post-peer-review final draft of the article.

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Funding Information

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Institutes on Drug Abuse (grant numbers R01DA024598 and R01DA033862 awarded to J.R. Havens). D.B. Stephens was supported by NIH T32 training grant TL1RR033172.