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Implicit and explicit attitudes of health care workers and their injecting drug using clients with hepatitis C: is this related to treatment experiences?

People with hepatitis C (HCV) face stigma and discrimination because of the association of this disease with injecting drug use (IDU). Research has found that many instances of HCV-related discrimination occur in the health care sector. Health care workers' beliefs about their HCV positive clients are likely to influence how they relate to clients and their treatment delivery. This research assessed the implicit and explicit attitudes of both health care workers and their HCV positive injecting drug using (HCV+) clients toward each other and then established whether these affect the treatment experiences of health care workers and clients. The sample consisted of 60 health care workers (doctors and nurses), 120 HCV+ and 120 HCV- clients, recruited from the same treatment facility. Participants were given a series of attitude and treatment experiences measures to complete. Data illustrate that while health care workers' and HCV+ clients' explicit attitudes towards each other were positive, clients with HCV still rated their health care workers less highly and reported less satisfaction with their treatment than HCV- clients. Analyses also indicated that more conservative health care workers displayed greater prejudice toward their HCV+ clients because they believe that injecting drug use is controllable. This prejudice toward IDUs on the part of health care workers was associated with worry about the behaviour of IDU clients and this worry in turn predicted differences in treatment experiences reported by HCV+ and HCV- clients. These data support the contention that health care worker concerns, particularly those related to injecting drug use, underlie discriminatory treatment of people with HCV. Finally the research also addressed the impact of health care worker contact with HCV+ clients on their attitudes towards this group. Analysis revealed that while health care workers who have had more contact with people with HCV show more positive explicit attitudes, they also show less favourable implicit attitudes toward IDUs. This may reflect the difficulties and stresses associated in caring for IDUs and may provide insight into the hidden costs involved for health care workers working with a population that may be challenging and at times difficult to manage.
Date January 2007
CreatorsBrener, Loren, Psychology, Faculty of Science, UNSW
Source SetsAustraliasian Digital Theses Program
Detected LanguageEnglish

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