Significant advances have been made in preventing HIV infection among injectors but we still know little about preventing hepatitis C (HCV). Both prevalence and incidence of hepatitis C can remain high among IDUs even in the context of widespread implementation of harm reduction programmes. We need to develop new ways to fill the knowledge gap regarding HCV prevention. One way is to learn from the experts–those IDUs who, after long-term injection in social milieus of high hepatitis C prevalence, nonetheless remain uninfected. We describe a recently commenced program of research that focuses on understanding the strategies, behaviours, and environmental factors associated with “staying safe”. This represents a 180-degree turn in IDU research where the focus has traditionally been on risk. Since social, cultural and environmental factors, as well as the vagaries of human strategic discovery by drug users can vary among localities, researchers in four different contexts–New York City, Valencia, Sydney and London–are collaborating in parallel Staying Safe studies. These studies aim to provide the conceptual basis for developing a new generation of HCV prevention programs to assist both new and experienced IDUs to remain uninfected over the long run.
How can hepatitis C be prevented in the long term?