At the intersection of marginalised identities – paper on LGBT injecting drug users with hepatitis c

A paper based on work we presented at the Social Research Conference on HIV, Hepatitis C and Related Diseases, Sydney, last year. Email me for a copy of find it here:

Deacon, R, Mooney-Somers, J, Treloar, C, & Maher, L. (2013) At the intersection of marginalised identities: Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people’s experiences of injecting drug use and hepatitis C seroconversion Health and Social Care in the Community. doi: 10.1111/hsc.12026. [Epub ahead of print]

Abstract: While the levels of injecting drug use among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) populations are high we know little about their experiences of injecting drugs or living with hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. The loss of traditional family and cultural ties means connection to community is important to the wellbeing of LGBT populations. While some kinds of drug-use are normalised within many LGBT communities, injecting drug use continues to be stigmatised. This exploratory qualitative study of people with newly acquired HCV used semi-structured interviews to explore participants’ understandings and awareness of HCV, seroconversion, testing, diagnosis and treatment. We present a secondary thematic analysis of eight LGBT participants of the experience of injecting drugs, living with HCV and having a marginalised sexual or gender identity.

Community was central to the participants’ accounts. Drug-use facilitated connection to a chosen community by suppressing sexual or gender desires allows them to fit in to the mainstream; enacting LGBT community norms of behaviour; and connection through shared drug-use. Participants also described feeling afraid to come out about their drug-use to LGBT peers because of the associated stigma of HCV. They described a similar stigma associated with HIV within the PWID community. Thus the combination of being LBGT/living with HIV (a “gay” disease) and injecting drugs/living with HCV (a “junkie’s” disease) left them in a kind of no man’s land. Health professionals working in drug and HCV care services need to develop capacity in providing culturally appropriate health care for LGBT people who inject drugs.

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