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hepatitis C, medication adherence, social support, veterans



  1. Phillips, Frances H. PhD, APRN, ACNS, BC
  2. Barnes, Donelle PhD, RN, CNE


Purpose/Objectives: The aim of this study was to describe military veterans' experiences of support and how those experiences influence their decisions to be adherent, during hepatitis C virus (HCV) treatment.


Design: A qualitative phenomenological design was used. Inclusion criteria were veterans 18 years or older, receiving standard treatment for HCV, able to read, write, and communicate in English.


Setting: A US Veterans Administration facility in Texas.


Sample: Convenience sampling was used to obtain a final sample of 21 veterans.


Methods: Data collection consisted of 1-time, in-depth interviews with analysis occurring simultaneously. Follow-up phone calls with participants verified that the themes were accurate reflections of their lived experience.


Results: Because of the fear of stigma, veterans make choices about to whom they tell their diagnosis. This limits the circle of friends and coworkers who could provide support. For some veterans, family members provide emotional and practical support, but family can also be a burden. In order to cope with family and treatment demands, some veterans hibernate, whereas others socialize with friends and coworkers. Some veterans found providers to be supportive, but others did not.


Conclusions: Veterans experience both supportive and unsupportive reactions from family, friends, and healthcare providers while receiving HCV treatment. Those reactions either support or frustrate efforts to be adherent to treatment.


Implications: In order to support treatment adherence, healthcare providers need to assess sources of support, or burden, experienced by military veterans during HCV treatment. When veterans do not have a supportive network, they need to be encouraged to attend a support group or seek counseling. Support services need to be funded by the Veterans Administration. Providers need to practice empathy and caring in order to support adherence during treatment. Further research is needed on how military veterans manage their health after hepatitis C treatment, contrasting successful versus unsuccessful treatment outcomes.