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Year : 2004  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 183-191

Infection Control in the Context of Hepatitis C Disclosure: Implications for Education of Healthcare Professionals

National Centre in HIV Social Research, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Correspondence Address:
Carla Treloar
National Centre in HIV Social Research, Webster Building, University of New South Wales, Sydney 2052
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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Introduction: Previous investigation has shown that the health sector is a main source of discrimination against people with hepatitis C. This paper examines the perceptions and experiences of people with hepatitis C of their interactions with healthcare workers, particularly examining the implementation of infection control precautions. We contend that rather than applying infection control precautions universally, health care workers make judgements about individual patients and the likelihood that they are infected with hepatitis C. Thus, infection control practices can be used as a tool to discriminate against people with hepatitis C. Social identity theory is used to illustrate these insights and to propose recommendations for education of health care workers. Method: Semi-structured interviews with 19 people who had hepatitis C were conducted. The analysis examines issues of diagnosis, discrimination and disclosure in relation to healthcare workers' use of infection control procedures during clinical interactions. Results: Participants described non-compliance with infection control guidelines by healthcare workers in a range of settings. In some instances, participants expressed disapproval of non-compliance, at other times participants felt vulnerable and discriminated against. Participants felt obliged to disclose their infections, but some decided against future disclosure because of negative reactions from healthcare workers. Infection control procedures were used as a tool to discriminate against some participants. Discussion: Non-compliance with infection control guidelines persists among healthcare workers and can be identified by patients. A minority of workers use infection control as a discriminatory tool against those with hepatitis C. Further intervention is required to ensure infection control guidelines are enacted in the manner intended.

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