Objectives People with mental illness are at significantly higher risk of acquiring hepatitis C virus (HCV) compared with the general population. This study assessed knowledge of and attitudes towards people with HCV and people who inject drugs (PWID) among support workers of clients with mental illness. Methods Support workers from a community managed organisation (CMO) in Australia were recruited to complete an online cross-sectional survey. The survey collected data about their knowledge of HCV and attitudes towards PWID and people with HCV. Results Valid responses were received from 117 support workers. Although HCV knowledge was moderate, there were significant knowledge gaps around transmission and treatment of HCV. Higher HCV knowledge was significantly associated with more positive attitudes towards PWID, but not with attitudes towards people with HCV. Participants had more positive attitudes towards people with HCV than towards PWID. Additionally, those with more positive attitudes towards HCV tended to also have more positive attitudes towards PWID. Conclusions Given that people with mental illness are at higher risk of acquiring HCV, these results point to the need for education targeted at support workers of clients with mental illness to increase HCV knowledge and promote positive attitudes towards PWID and people with HCV. What is known about this topic The limited research available suggests that there are gaps in HCV knowledge among mental-health-service providers, although such research has generally targeted physicians. What does this paper add This paper is the first to assess HCV knowledge, attitudes towards PWID and HCV among mental-health support workers. The findings suggest that although HCV knowledge is moderate, significant gaps exist, which are related to negative attitudes towards PWID. What are the implications for practitioners Supportive and non-judgemental care is essential for people with mental illness and HCV, due to the potential for a double stigma arising from negative attitudes towards both mental illness and injecting drug use. This paper highlights the importance of targeted education for workers in the mental-health sector, to increase HCV knowledge and promote positive attitudes towards people with co-occurring mental-health, substance use problems and HCV.
- community-based care
- mental illness