As part of the Hepatitis C Elimination through Access to Diagnostics (HEAD-Start) project of FIND, the global alliance for diagnostics, BMC Infectious Diseases have published a paper on Values and preferences for hepatitis C self-testing among the general population and healthcare workers in Rwanda authored by Sonjelle Shilton and partners from Rwanda Biomedical Centre and Department of Psychiatric and Nursing, University of Saragossa, Zaragoza, Spain.
In 2018, Rwanda launched a 5-year hepatitis C virus (HCV) elimination plan as per the World Health Organization global targets to eliminate HCV by 2030. To improve awareness of HCV status, strategies are needed to ensure easy access to HCV testing by as-yet unreached populations. HCV-self-testing, an innovative strategy, could further increase HCV testing uptake. This assessment explores perceptions around HCV self-testing among members of the public and healthcare workers in Rwanda.
A qualitative study was undertaken in Masaka District Hospital, comprising individual interviews, group interviews and participatory action research (PAR) activities. Purposive and snowball sampling methods guided the selection of informants. Informed consent was obtained from all participants. A thematic analysis approach was used to analyse the findings.
The participants comprised 36 members of the public and 36 healthcare workers. Informants appreciated HCV self-testing as an innovative means of increasing access to HCV testing, as well as an opportunity to test privately and subsequently autonomously decide whether to seek further HCV care. Informants further highlighted the need to make HCV self-testing services free of charge at the nearest health facility. Disadvantages identified included the lack of pre/post-test counselling, as well as the potential psychosocial harm which may result from the use of HCV self-testing.
HCV self-testing is perceived to be an acceptable method to increase HCV testing in Rwanda. Further research is needed to assess the impact of HCV self-testing on HCV cascade of care outcomes.
The publication is open access and can be accessed here.