New article: Understanding the social and material basis for hepatitis C cure

A new article, led by DruGS program member Adrian Farrugia, reports findings from a national Australian Research Council-funded project on experiences of hepatitis C, treatment and cure since the advent of direct-acting antiviral treatment.

The article, entitled ‘Hepatitis C cure as a “gathering”: Attending to the social and material relations of hepatitis C treatment’, analyses three complementary cases of hepatitis C, treatment and cure. Working with the notion of hepatitis C as ‘gathering’ originally developed by DruGS program members Suzanne Fraser and Kate Seear (Fraser and Seear, 2011), it analyses cure not as solely a biomedical achievement but as a social and material event.

The first case analysed in the article demonstrates the ways a friendship between two women combines with adjustments to treatment access to produce a gathering, and argues that it is the gathering that makes cure possible. The second case focuses on the forces that gather and distribute responsibility when cure does not occur in contexts shaped by simplistic treatment logics. The third case analyses a gathering of relations in which hepatitis C lingers, thereby limiting the cure’s possible transformative effects.

In focusing on the social and material relations that support cure, the article suggests that even in an era defined by highly effective medicines such as direct-acting antivirals, hepatitis C cure is not necessarily straightforward, but an unpredictable effect of a fragile coalescing of multiple forces –– a gathering. When cure is understood in this way, hepatitis C elimination efforts can be recognised as needing a broad focus, one that includes social and material conditions alongside traditional public health efforts to increase treatment uptake, completion and follow up. The article concludes seeing cure as a gathering exposes the need to treat these broader issues not as extra concerns but as intrinsically part of individual experiences of cure and of ambitious efforts to eliminate hepatitis C.

The article is the first in a series produced from the project with two more articles forthcoming. The first uses the idea of ‘post-crisis’ to consider how the interferon-era continues to shape experiences of hepatitis C treatment and the second analyses the non-uptake of hepatitis C treatment via the notion of ‘slow death’ proposed by Lauren Berlant.

Full reference

Farrugia, A., Fomiatti, R., Fraser, S., Moore, D. Edwards, M., Birbilis, E. & Treloar, C. (2022). Hepatitis C as a ‘gathering’: Attending to the social and material relations of hepatitis C treatment. Sociology of Health and Illness, 44(4-5), 830–847.