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J Health Psychol. 1999 Mar;4(2):237-46. doi: 10.1177/135910539900400216.

Hepatitis C: A Socio-cultural Perspective on the Effects of a New Virus on a Community's Health.

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Department of General Practice, University of Adelaide, Australia.


Since the emergence of diagnostic medical tests in Australia in 1990, hepatitis C (HCV) has been shown to account for over 90 percent of all non-A non-B hepatitis, revealing it to be a widespread and major public health problem. The diagnosis of HCV involves a diverse range of issues for affected persons, introducing identity and lifestyle changes, which are commonly articulated through psychological concepts. In this article we argue that it is important to examine the broader social and cultural contexts that contribute to the experiences of persons affected by HCV. The thematic analysis of qualitative data from six individuals diagnosed with HCV is included to exemplify some of the processes that are involved in the changing identity of a person following a positive diagnosis. The theoretical framework for the interpretation of these processes is interpretive interactionism. In this research, we are attempting to extend the understanding of the effects of HCV diagnoses beyond internal, psychological processes by examining how these diagnoses transform some of the processes of self-formation and expression. The participants' experiences indicate that there are at least four dimensions of self that were significant to their changing sense of self: relationship of self to others; the emotional self; self-stories and identity; and self-scrutiny and relationships. We conclude that a socio-cultural perspective contributes to the explanation of the transition period following a HCV-positive diagnosis and the redefinition of self towards a HCV status.


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