Australia's ambitious aim to ‘eliminate’ hepatitis C as a public health concern by 2030 requires researchers, policy makers and health practitioners to engage with populations rarely identified as a priority. Men who inject performance and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDs) are one such population, yet research suggests they have low rates of knowledge about hepatitis C. Although rates of needle-sharing in this group are thought to be low, other risks of blood-to-blood contact exist due to the use of large-gauge needles, intramuscular injecting, hard-to-reach injection sites, repeated injecting and peer-to-peer injecting. How should health initiatives engage people who might not customarily consider themselves vulnerable to hepatitis C? Drawing on the work of body theorist Margrit Shildrick, this article considers how men who inject PIEDs understand their bodies, with a particular focus on injecting practices, blood awareness and infection control, in order to inform hepatitis C prevention efforts. In our analysis, we draw on qualitative interviews with 60 men who inject PIEDs, which we conducted for an Australian Research Council-funded project focused on better understanding PIED injecting to improve health and minimise hepatitis C transmission. The interviews suggest that men who inject PIEDs closely monitor potential external infection risks, such as dirt and bacteria that might intrude upon the ‘purity and security’ of the body. However, less attention appears to be paid to what might be transferred out of the body and potentially to others, such as blood. Notions of trust and cleanliness, and normative perceptions of intravenous drug use, also shaped injecting practices and cursory attention to blood management. While environmental transmission poses a smaller transmission risk than needle-sharing, educating PIED consumers about it is nevertheless warranted. Focusing targeted health promotion materials on environmental blood as a potential route of hepatitis C transmission may help engage this population in prevention, and encourage more frequent hepatitis C testing.
- Feminist theory
- Hepatitis C
- Performance and image-enhancing drugs
- The body