Little is known about how information on direct-acting antiviral treatment for hepatitis C circulates through peer networks of people who inject drugs. In this study we aimed to explore what and how treatment-related information is shared between people undergoing treatment and their peers.
Participants were recruited from two general practice clinics and the community-based hepatitis C Treatment and Prevention Study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with each participant (N = 20) before, during and following treatment. Interviews explored hepatitis C treatment experiences, key sources of DAA information and the impact of receiving and sharing knowledge. Inductive thematic analysis was conducted. Time sequential matrices were generated to understand thematic change over time.
Fifty-four interviews were conducted with 20 participants across seven field-sites in Melbourne, Australia. Key themes were: 'peers as a source treatment information', 'do it together' and 'becoming a treatment advocate'. Peers were a crucial trusted source of information. Positive treatment anecdotes were important for building confidence in and motivation to initiate treatment. Many participants adopted a 'treatment advocate' role in their close peer networks, which was described as empowering. Some participants described benefits of undertaking treatment alongside members of their close network.
Findings illustrate the importance of close peers in shaping treatment perceptions and engagement. This will be important in designing health promotion messaging and interventions to increase treatment uptake.