At the 12th Social Research Conference on HIV, Hepatitis C and Related Diseases, Sydney today, watching my colleague Rachel Deacon presented our paper “At the intersection of two marginalised identities: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people’s experiences of injecting drug use and hepatitis C seroconversion”
Introduction: Although international research shows higher levels of injecting drug use and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) populations, there is limited social research on the experiences of LGBT people who inject drugs (PWID) or live with HCV.
Approach: An Australian qualitative study of understandings and experiences of HCV in people provided an unexpected data set of 8 LGBT injectors living with hepatitis C. This paper presents findings of an opportunistic thematic analysis of these data.
Findings: We argue that same-sex relationships as a social context for injecting has important implications for health promotion and health provision around risk reduction practices, understanding initiation to injecting, injecting as a relationship practice in creating intimacy, and relationships as a source of support during HCV or drug treatment. Many of our participants described tensions around their place in two communities, an LGBT community and a community of people who injects drugs. The loss of connection to a chosen community means the absence of vital support networks, which may place additional stressors on those considering HCV or drug treatment.
Implications: We argue that meeting the needs of this population involves health professionals developing relationships with LGBT community health organisations, and developing capacity in providing LGBT health care, while LGBT community organizations must raise awareness of hepatitis C in LGBT communities. It is vital that we reduce stigma and potentially negative consequences for people whose experiences exist at the intersection of these two marginalised identities.