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Open Access Research article

Reasons for compliance or noncompliance with advice to test for hepatitis C via an internet-mediated blood screening service: a qualitative study

Freke R Zuure1*, Titia Heijman1, Anouk T Urbanus12, Maria Prins12, Gerjo Kok3 and Udi Davidovich1

Author Affiliations

1 Cluster Infectious Diseases, Department of Research, Public Health Service of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands

2 Center for Infection and Immunology Amsterdam (CINIMA), Academic Medical Center (University of Amsterdam), Amsterdam, the Netherlands

3 Department of Work and Social Psychology, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, Maastricht, the Netherlands

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:293  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-293

Published: 10 May 2011

Abstract

Background

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is mainly transmitted by exposure to infected blood, and can lead to liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Since the onset of HCV and the development of liver cirrhosis usually are asymptomatic, many HCV-infected individuals are still undiagnosed. To identify individuals infected with HCV in the general population, a low threshold, internet-mediated blood testing service was set up. We performed a qualitative study examining reasons for compliance and noncompliance with advice to test for HCV via the online blood testing service.

Methods

Semistructured telephone interviews were conducted with 33 website visitors who had been advised to test for HCV (18 testers, 15 non-testers). Transcribed interviews were analyzed qualitatively and interpreted using psychosocial theories of health behavior.

Results

Reasons for testing pertaining to the online service were: the testing procedure is autonomous, personalized test advice is provided online, reminder emails are sent, and there is an online planning tool. Reasons for testing not specific to the online service were: knowing one's status can prevent liver disease and further transmission of HCV, HCV is curable, testing can provide reassurance, physical complaints are present, and there is liver disease in one's social environment. Service-related reasons for not testing pertained to inconvenient testing facilities, a lack of commitment due to the low threshold character of the service, computer/printing problems, and incorrectly interpreting an online planning tool. The reasons for not testing that are not specific to the online service were: the belief that personal risk is low, the absence of symptoms, low perceived urgency for testing and treatment, fear of the consequences of a positive test result, avoiding threatening information, and a discouraging social environment.

Conclusions

Features specific to the online service played a significant role in motivation to test for HCV above and beyond the more conventional perceived health benefits of HCV testing. However, some online specific features were considered problematic and need to be adapted. Methods and strategies for dealing with these impeding factors and for improving compliance with testing via the online service are outlined.