Hepatitis C Knowledge and Razor Blade Reuse Practices of Roadside Barbers in Karachi Pakistan
Introduction: Pakistan, with a population of 180 million, has a 5% prevalence of hepatitis C, which translates into 9 million affected Pakistanis. In addition to traditional risk factors seen in the West, there are other factors more unique to developing countries like Pakistan, including the practice of reusing razor blades by roadside barbers. Previous studies have shown low levels of HCV-related knowledge and high rates of razor blade reuse amongst barbers in Pakistan.
Objective: To assess current knowledge and practices of roadside barbers regarding hepatitis C and razor blade reuse.
Methods: Fifty random roadside barbers were identified and interviewed from different parts of Karachi, Pakistan. A single interviewer used a standardized survey form to question barbers about their demographics, barber practices, HCV-related knowledge, and razor blade usage.
Results: 50 roadside barbers (average age 30 years, 70% with no education) were interviewed and their practices monitored. The barbers had an average of 9 clients per day. All 50 used razor blades on every client. 33 (66%) also performed abscess drainage and one did circumcisions. 34 (68%) had knowledge of hepatitis C and 46 (92%) changed razor blades after every client. 90% of the barbers used potash alum in their practices. 26 (52%) disposed of their razor blades on the roadside and 24 (48%) threw them into general use waste bins.
Conclusions: Compared to historical controls, current roadside barbers in Karachi, Pakistan demonstrate improved levels of HCV awareness and lower rates or razor blade reuse. However, more work is needed to further improve HCV-related awareness, lower razor blade reuse practices even further, and address safe razor blade disposal.