Stigmatization of Hepatitis C by Medical Sciences Students and Healthcare Providers: A Descriptive-Analytical Epidemiological Study

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Background: Hepatitis C is among the greatest global health challenges. It is a major risk factor for serious liver diseases. Stigmatization of hepatitis C by healthcare providers is one of the main barriers to its early diagnosis and effective treatment. The aim of this study was to assess hepatitis C knowledge and stigmatization among the students and the staff of Birjand University of Medical Sciences, Birjand, Iran. Methods: This descriptive-analytical epidemiological study was undertaken on 200 students, 100 nurses, 50 physicians, and 50 administrative staff affiliated to Birjand University of Medical Sciences, Birjand, Iran. A researcher-made hepatitis C knowledge and stigmatization questionnaire was used for data collection. The collected data were entered into the SPSS software (v. 18) and analyzed using the one-sample t-test and Pearson correlation analysis at a significance level of less than 0.05. Results: Participants were 278 women (69.5%) and 122 men (30.5%). The mean score of hepatitis C stigmatization was 82.33 ± 12.81 (out of a total possible score range of 28 - 140). This score was significantly lower than the possible mean score of the stigmatization questionnaire. Most participants obtained a low stigmatization score (63.8%) and a high knowledge score (66%). Hepatitis C stigmatization by participants was inversely correlated with their hepatitis C knowledge (r = -0.2; P < 0.001). Compared to other healthcare providers, physicians obtained the lowest hepatitis C stigmatization score and the highest hepatitis C knowledge score. Conclusion: People with greater knowledge about hepatitis C are less likely to stigmatize patients with hepatitis C. Therefore, educational interventions are needed to improve healthcare providers’ knowledge about hepatitis C in order to reduce the risk of hepatitis C stigmatization by them.