Staying Safe: How do long-term injecting drug users avoid hepatitis C infection?

This ongoing project seeks to discover how some injecting drug users (IDUs) have managed to avoid becoming infected with HCV, in spite of having injected drugs for many years in localities in which most IDUs have acquired HCV. Comparisons of IDUs who have been exposed to HCV and those who have not over the long term (i.e. those who have 'stayed safe') will generate hypotheses about prevention to be explored in future research. This project is unique in that the traditional focus on people who have acquired infection as ‘cases’ is reversed, so that those who remain unexposed to HCV over the long-term are the focus of enquiry. Our work in Sydney is also part of an international project with other sites, including New York City and London. In Sydney we have completed data collection with the assistance of the HITS-c community cohort of people who are hepatitis C negative. Two consecutive interviews were conducted with participants using a life history approach. Our analyses have already led to publication of strategies used by participants (such as vein care, managing money and withdrawal) that also have potential to minimise risk of HCV transmission. Further work, involving analysis across the sites, is planned.

Funding Agency

UNSW Arts & Social Sciences, Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing

Partners / Collaborators

The Kirby Institute


Staying Safe from Hepatitis C: Engaging with Multiple Priorities. Qualitative Health Research (2012) 

Organisational units