Blood Borne Virus and Drug Stabilisation Treatment Long Term Impacts for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness (2021)
Homelessness is a growing human rights issue in Ireland. The route to homelessness often involves numerous societal and personal factors. The prevalence of multiple issues faced by homeless individuals is increasing, complicating their return to wider society.
Substance addictions, blood borne viruses, and mental health issues are all independently over-represented within the homeless community. Blood borne viruses are transmitted when body fluids pass from an infected to a non-infected person. In Ireland, people who inject drugs are some of the most at-risk populations for these viruses through needle-sharing. Mental ill-health is becoming increasingly recognised as a significant contributor to, and consequence of, substance addictions.
Those experiencing homelessness, addiction, or mental health difficulties struggle to adhere to medication regimens, which becomes more pronounced with co-morbidity of these issues. For BBV treatments, however, adherence is of paramount importance, as HIV can be suppressed to un-transmittable levels, and hepatitis C can be cured entirely.
Dublin Simon Community’s Blood Borne Virus and Drug Stabilisation Unit was established to support those experiencing homelessness and BBV treatment adherence difficulties to re-engage with their regimens. The programme further aims to address substance addiction, mental health, accommodation, civic, social, and physical health issues.
This study investigated the impact of unit admission on these compounding issues. Mixed-methodologies were used with a gender-balanced sample of 13 participants across four time-points from pre-admission to six months post-discharge. Key results include: BBV treatment adherence, improved physical health, the impact of loneliness and mental health service availability for mental health, improved accommodation, post-discharge substance use regression, better outcomes for alcohol- than cocaine-dependent clients, and a correlation of self-belief with outcomes. Implications are discussed and recommendations offered.