Background: Universal access to the hepatitis C direct acting antiviral (DAAs) regimens presents a unique opportunity to eliminate hepatitis C in Australia. Large numbers of Australians have already been cured using these treatments, however, the numbers presenting for treatment have begun to plateau. This study explored how people experienced and understood being cured of hepatitis C, with the aim of informing interventions to increase uptake of DAA treatment among people with hepatitis C. Methods: This qualitative study used semi-structured interviews to explore the experiences of people with hepatitis C taking DAAs accessing both hospital and community clinics. Interviews were conducted 12 weeks after treatment completion. Participants were asked to reflect on their experience of living with hepatitis C, their reasons for seeking treatment, and their experience of, DAA treatments. Participants were also asked to reflect on the meaning of being cured, and how they shared this experience with their peers. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and key themes were identified using inductive thematic analysis. Results: Twenty participants were interviewed. While participants described a range of physical health benefits of achieving a hepatitis C cure it was an improved sense of psychological wellbeing that had the most significant impact on participants' lives. The majority described their relief about no longer living with the burden of an uncertain future due to anxiety about developing liver disease or cancer, as well as fear of infecting others. Participants who had a past history of injecting drug use, described being cured as a way to break the connection with their past. Participants who were current injectors raised concerns about re-infection. Conclusion: Feeling “normal” and not infectious allows people to live with reduced psychological distress, in addition to the physical benefits of no longer being at risk of developing serious liver disease. Future engagement strategies targeting people who are not accessing hepatitis health care need to promote the lived experience of being cured and the substantial psychological, and physical health benefits, offered by achieving a cure. Interventions aimed at people who are currently injecting also need to highlight the availability of re-treatment in conjunction with primary prevention strategies.
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