Of the estimated 160 000 Australians currently infected with hepatitis C virus (HCV), two-thirds are men.
Little is known about their social and health needs.
Professor Gifford and colleagues from Victoria, Australia undertook a comprehensive survey of Australian men living with HCV.
In 2002, the researchers designed a questionnaire that could be self-administered.
The survey was completed by a largely non-clinical sample of men living in the State of Victoria who had tested positive for HCV antibodies (n = 308).
The return rate was 54%.
The mean age was 38 years, and 86% were 'current' or 'past' injecting drug users.
The researchers noted that the mean number of years since diagnosis was 6.6 years and the mean self-reported number of years since infection was 12.6 years.
|40% of men believed they received less favorable treatment from health care professionals than those without HCV|
|Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology|
In total, the research team found that 50% of men reported experiencing HCV-related symptoms, most commonly tiredness (61%) and nausea (30%).
Of the sample, the researchers reported that 43% currently saw a doctor for HCV and although 30% had ever been referred to a specialist, few had received treatment (6% interferon; 14% combination therapy).
The researchers found that 40% of men believed they received less favorable treatment from health care professionals than those without HCV.
In addition, the team noted that self-assessed health status was significantly lower than Australian norms, as were SF-12 physical and mental health scores.
Scores were moderately correlated, indicating an association between the physical and mental health burden of HCV.
Prof Gifford concluded, "The social, physical and mental health needs of men living with HCV are considerable."
"Few men in the present study had accessed specialist treatment; those who were current injecting drug users were particularly disadvantaged."
"Reduction of barriers to primary and specialist health care is essential to improve treatment, support and care for men with HCV."