A qualitative study trialling the acceptability of new hepatitis C prevention messages for people who inject drugs: symbiotic messages, pleasure and conditional interpretations.

Harm reduction journal

PubMedID: 25884357

Treloar C, Newland J, Maher L. A qualitative study trialling the acceptability of new hepatitis C prevention messages for people who inject drugs: symbiotic messages, pleasure and conditional interpretations. Harm Reduct J. 2015;12(1):5.
AIM
Prevention of hepatitis C (HCV) remains a public health challenge. A new body of work is emerging seeking to explore and exploit "symbiotic goals" of people who inject drugs (PWID). That is, strategies used by PWID to achieve other goals may be doubly useful in facilitating the same behaviours (use of sterile injecting equipment) required to prevent HCV. This project developed and trialled new HCV prevention messages based on the notion of symbiotic messages.

METHOD
New HCV prevention messages were developed in a series of 12 posters after consultation with staff from needle and syringe programs (NSPs) and a drug user organisation. Two posters were displayed each week for a 6-week period within one NSP. NSP staff and clients were invited to focus groups to discuss their responses to the posters.

RESULTS
A total of four focus groups were conducted; one group of seven staff members and three groups of clients with a total of 21 participants. Responses to each of the posters were mixed. Staff and clients interpreted messages in literal ways rather than as dependent on context, with staff concerned that not all HCV prevention information was included in any one message; while clients felt that some messages were misleading in relation to the expectations of pleasure. Clients appreciated the efforts to use bright imagery and messages that included acknowledgement of pleasure. Clients were not aware of some harm reduction information contained in the messages (such as "shoot to the heart"), and this generated potential for misunderstanding of the intended message. Clients felt that any message provided by the NSP could be trusted and did not require visible endorsement by health departments.

CONCLUSIONS
While the logic of symbiotic messages is appealing, it is challenging to produce eye-catching, brief messages that provide sufficient information to cover the breadth of HCV prevention. Incorporation of symbiotic messages in conversations or activities between staff and clients may provide opportunities for these messages to be related to the clients' needs and priorities and for staff to provide HCV prevention information in accord with their professional ethos.