Hepatitis C antibody reactivity among high-risk rural women: opportunities for services and treatment in the criminal justice system

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7 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine the drug use and criminal justice factors related to hepatitis C virus (HCV) antibody reactivity among rural women in the USA recruited from local jails. Design/methodology/approach: Analyses included 277 women with a history of injection drug use from three rural jails in Kentucky. Participants completed health and drug use questionnaires and received antibody testing for HCV. Findings: The majority of women tested reactive to the HCV antibody (69 percent). Reactivity was associated with risk factors, such as unsterile needle use. Criminal justice variables, including an increased likelihood of prison incarceration, an earlier age of first arrest, and a longer incarceration history, were associated with HCV reactive tests. Participants also endorsed several barriers to seeking healthcare before entering jail that were more prevalent in women testing HCV reactive regardless of HCV status awareness before entering jail. Originality/value: Injection and high-risk sharing practices as well as criminal justice factors were significantly associated with HCV reactivity. Future research and practice could focus on opportunities for linkages to HCV treatment during incarceration as well as during community re-entry to help overcome real or perceived treatment barriers. The current study highlights the importance of the criminal justice system as a non-traditional, real-world setting to examine drug use and related health consequences such as HCV by describing the association of high-risk drug use and criminal justice consequences with HCV among rural women recruited from local jails.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-100
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Prisoner Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Barriers
  • Cocaine
  • Injection drug use
  • Jail
  • Offender health
  • Substance use

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Professions (miscellaneous)


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