BACKGROUND: Uptake of hepatitis C virus (HCV) testing remains inadequate globally. Simplified point-of-care tests should enhance HCV diagnosis and elimination. We aimed to assess the acceptability of finger-stick and venepuncture HCV RNA testing among people who inject drugs (PWID). METHODS: Participants were enrolled in an observational cohort study with recruitment at 13 sites between June 2016 and February 2018. Capillary whole-blood collected by finger-stick and plasma collected by venepuncture were performed for Xpert(®) HCV viral load testing. Participants completed a questionnaire on acceptability of, and preferences for, blood collection methods. RESULTS: Among 565 participants (mean age, 44 years; 69% male), 64% reported injecting drugs in the last month, and 63% were receiving opioid substitution treatment. Eighty three percent reported that finger-stick testing was very acceptable. Overall, 65% of participants preferred finger-stick over venepuncture testing, with 61% of these preferring to receive results in 60 min. The most common reason for preferring finger-stick over venepuncture testing was it was quick (62%) followed by venous access difficulties (21%). The main reasons for preferring venepuncture over finger-stick testing were that it was quick (61%) and accurate (29%). Females were more likely to prefer finger-stick testing than males (adjusted OR 1.96; 95% CI 1.30, 2.99; p = 0.002). Among people with recent (previous month) injecting drug use, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people were less likely than non-Aboriginal people to prefer finger-stick testing (adjusted OR 0.57; 95% CI 0.34, 0.9; p = 0.033). CONCLUSIONS: Finger-stick whole-blood collection is acceptable to people who inject drugs, with males and Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people with recent injecting drug use less likely to prefer finger-stick testing. Further research is needed to evaluate interventions integrating simplified point-of-care HCV testing to engage people in care in a single-visit, thereby facilitating HCV treatment scale-up.
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