Injecting drug users (IDUs) are at high risk for infection by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other blood-borne pathogens. In the United States, IDUs account for nearly one-third of the cases of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), either directly or indirectly (heterosexual and perinatal cases of AIDS where the source of infection was an IDU). IDU also account for a substantial proportion of cases of hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV) virus infections. The primary mode of transmission of HIV among IDUs is parenteral, through direct needle sharing or multiperson use of syringes. Despite high levels of knowledge about risk, multiperson use of needles and syringes is due primarily to fear of arrest and incarceration for violation of drug paraphernalia laws and ordinances that prohibit manufacture, sale, distribution, or possession of equipment and materials intended to be used with narcotics. It is estimated that in 1997 there were approximately 110 needle exchange programs (NEPs) in North America. In part, because of the ban on the use of Federal funds for the operation of needle exchange, it has been difficult to evaluate the efficacy of these programs. This chapter presents data from the studies that have evaluated the role of NEPs in HIV prevention. Evidence for the efficacy of NEPs comes from three source: (1) studies originally focused on the effectiveness of NEPs in non-HIV blood-borne infections, (2) mathematical modeling of data on needle exchange on HIV seroincidence, and (3) studies that examine the positive and negative impact of NEPs on HIV and AIDS. Case-control studies have provided powerful data on the positive effect of NEPs on reduction of two blood-borne viral infections (HBV and HCV) For example, a case-control study in Tacoma, Washington, showed that a six-fold increase in HBV and a seven-fold increase in HCV infections in IDUs were associated with nonuse of the NEP. The first federally funded study of needle exchange was an evaluation of the New Haven NEP, which is legally operated by the New Haven Health Department. Rather than relying on self-report of reduced risky injection drug use, this study utilized mathematical and statistical modeling, using data from a syringe tracking and testing system. Incidence of HIV infection among needle exchange participants was estimated to have decreased by 33% as a result of the NEP. A series of Government-commissioned reports have reviewed the data on positive and negative outcomes of NEPs. The major reports are from the National Commission on AIDS; the U.S. General Accounting Office; the Centers for Disease Control/University of California; and the National Academy of Sciences. The latter two reports are used in this chapter. The aggregated results support the positive benefit of NEPs and do not support negative outcomes from NEPs. When legal restrictions on both purchase and possession of syringes are removed, IDUs will change their syringe-sharing behaviors in ways that can reduce HIV transmission. NEPs do not result in increased drug use among participants or the recruitment of first-time drug users.
Comparing drug-injecting risk between cities that differ in the legality of sterile syringe distribution for injection drug use provides a natural experiment to assess the efficacy of legalizing sterile syringe distribution as a structural intervention to prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other parenterally transmitted infections among injection drug users (IDUs). This study compares the parenteral risk for HIV and hepatitis B (HBV) and C (HCV) infection among IDUs in Newark, NJ, USA, where syringe distribution programs were illegal during the period when data were collected, and New York City (NYC) where they were legal. IDUs were nontreatment recruited, 2004–2006, serotested, and interviewed about syringe sources and injecting risk behaviors (prior 30 days). In multivariate logistic regression, adjusted odds ratios (AOR) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) for city differences are estimated controlling for potential city confounders. IDUs in Newark (n = 214) vs. NYC (n = 312) were more likely to test seropositive for HIV (26% vs. 5%; AOR = 3.2; 95% CI = 1.6, 6.1), antibody to the HBV core antigen (70% vs. 27%; AOR = 4.4; 95% CI = 2.8, 6.9), and antibody to HCV (82% vs. 53%; AOR = 3.0; 95% CI = 1.8, 4.9), were less likely to obtain syringes from syringe exchange programs or pharmacies (AOR = 0.004; 95% CI = 0.001, 0.01), and were more likely to obtain syringes from street sellers (AOR = 74.0; 95% CI = 29.9, 183.2), to inject with another IDU’s used syringe (AOR = 2.3; 95% CI = 1.1, 5.0), to reuse syringes (AOR = 2.99; 95% CI = 1.63, 5.50), and to not always inject once only with a new, sterile syringe that had been sealed in a wrapper (AOR = 5.4; 95% CI = 2.9, 10.3). In localities where sterile syringe distribution is illegal, IDUs are more likely to obtain syringes from unsafe sources and to engage in injecting risk behaviors. Legalizing and rapidly implementing sterile syringe distribution programs are critical for reducing parenterally transmitted HIV, HBV, and HCV among IDUs.
HIV; HBV; HCV; Drug injectors; IDU; Risk behaviors; Syringe exchange; Needle exchange; Pharmacy syringes.
Access to sterile syringes is a proven means of reducing the transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), viral hepatitis, and bacterial infections among injection drug users. In many U.S. states and territories, drug paraphernalia and syringe prescription laws are barriers to syringe access for injection drug users (IDUs): pharmacists may be reluctant to sell syringes to suspected IDUs, and police may confiscate syringes or arrest IDUs who cannot demonstrate a "legitimate" medical need for the syringes they possess. These barriers can be addressed by physician prescription of syringes. This study evaluates physicians' willingness to prescribe syringes, using the theory of planned behavior to identify key behavioral influences.
We mailed a survey to a representative sample of physicians from the American Medical Association physician database. Non-responding physicians were then called, faxed, or re-sent the survey, up to four times.
Twenty percent responded to the survey. Although less than 1 percent of respondents had ever prescribed syringes to a known injection drug user, more than 60% of respondents reported that they would be willing to do so. Physicians' willingness to prescribe syringes was best predicted by the belief that it was a feasible and effective intervention, but individual and peer attitudes were also significant.
This was the first nationwide survey of the physician willingness to prescribe syringes to IDUs. While the majority of respondents were willing to consider syringe prescription in their clinical practices, multiple challenges need to be addressed in order to improve physician knowledge and attitudes toward IDUs.
Syringe-exchange programs (SEPs) have proven to prevent the spread of bloodborne pathogens, primarily human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), among injection drug users (IDUs). In the United States, only about 7% of IDUs have access to and use SEPs. Some IDUs engage in secondary syringe exchange (SSE), meaning that one IDU (a “provider”) obtains syringes at an SEP to distribute to other IDUs (“recipients”). This formative qualitative research was conducted to understand why and how IDUs engage in SSE to aid in the development of a large-scale peer HIV prevention intervention. Interviews with 47 IDUs in Oakland and Richmond, California, indicated that SSE was embedded in existing social networks, which provided natural opportunities for peer education. SSE providers reported a desire to help other IDUs as their primary motivation, while recipients reported convenience as their primary reason for using SSE. Building SSE into SEP structures can facilitate an effective provision of risk reduction supplies and information to IDUs who do not access SEPs directly.
HIV prevention; Injection drug use; Peer intervention; Secondary syringe exchange; Social networks
The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence and correlates of disclosure to network members of being hepatitis C virus (HCV)- or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected among injecting dyads of infected injection drug users (IDUs) in Budapest, Hungary and Vilnius, Lithuania,. Multivariate generalized estimating equations (GEE) were used to assess associations. Very strong infection disclosure norms exist in Hungary, and HCV disclosure was associated with using drugs and having sex within the dyad. Non-ethnic Russian IDUs in Lithuania were more likely to disclose HCV infection to non-Roma, emotionally close and HCV-infected network members, and to those with whom they shared cookers, filters, drug solutions or rinse water or got used syringes from, and if they had fewer non-IDU or IDU network members. Ethnic Russian Lithuanian IDUs were more likely to disclose HCV if they had higher disclosure attitude and knowledge scores, ‘trusted’ network members, and had lower non-injecting network density and higher injecting network density. HIV-infected Lithuanian IDUs were more likely to disclose to ‘trusted’ network members. Disclosure norms matched disclosure behaviour in Hungary, while disclosure in Lithuania to ‘trusted’ network members suggests possible stigmatization. Ongoing free and confidential HCV/HIV testing services for IDUs are needed to emphasize and strengthen disclosure norms, and to decrease stigma.
Access to sterile syringes for injection drug users (IDUs) is a critical part of a comprehensive strategy to combat the transmission of HIV, hepatitis C virus, and other bloodborne pathogens. Understanding IDUs’ experiences and attitudes about syringe acquisition is crucial to ensuring adequate syringe supply and access for this population. This study sought to assess and compare IDUs’ syringe acquisition experiences and attitudes and HIV risk behavior in two neighboring states, Massachusetts (MA) and Rhode Island (RI). From March 2008 to May 2009, we surveyed 150 opioid IDUs at detoxification facilities in MA and RI, stratified the sample based on where respondents spent most of their time, and generated descriptive statistics to compare responses among the two groups. A large proportion of our participants (83%) reported pharmacies as a source of syringe in the last 6 months, while only 13% reported syringe exchange programs (SEPs) as a syringe source. Although 91% of our sample reported being able to obtain all of the syringes they needed in the past 6 months, 49% had used syringes or injection equipment previously used by someone else in that same time period. In comparison to syringe acquisition behaviors reported by patients of the same detoxification centers in 2001–2003 (data reported in previous publication), we found notable changes among MA participants. Our results reveal that some IDUs in our sample are still practicing high-risk injection behaviors, indicating a need for expanded and renewed efforts to promote safer injection behavior among IDUs. Our findings also indicate that pharmacies have become an important syringe source for IDUs and may represent a new and important setting in which IDUs can be engaged in a wide array of health services. Efforts should be made to involve pharmacists in providing harm reduction and HIV prevention services to IDUs. Finally, despite limited SEP access (especially in MA), SEPs are still used by approximately one of the three IDUs in our overall sample.
Injection drug users; IDUs; Syringes; Non-prescription syringes; Pharmacy; Syringe; Exchange program; Needle exchange program; Harm reduction
This study examines the association between using and sharing high dead-space syringes (HDSSs)—which retain over 1,000 times more blood after rinsing than low dead-space syringes (LDSSs)—and prevalent HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections among injecting drug users (IDUs). A sample of 851 out-of-treatment IDUs was recruited in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina, between 2003 and 2005. Participants were tested for HIV and HCV antibodies. Demographic, drug use, and injection practice data were collected via interviews. Data were analyzed using multiple logistic regression analysis. Participants had a mean age of 40 years and 74% percent are male, 63% are African American, 29% are non-Hispanic white, and 8% are of other race/ethnicity. Overall, 42% of participants had ever used an HDSS and 12% had shared one. HIV prevalence was 5% among IDUs who had never used an HDSS compared with 16% among IDUs who had shared one. The HIV model used a propensity score approach to adjust for differences between IDUs who had used an HDSS and those who had never used one. The HCV models included all potential confounders as covariates. A history of sharing HDSSs was associated with prevalent HIV (Odds Ratio = 2.50; 95% Confidence Interval = 1.01, 6.15). Use and sharing of HDSSs were also associated with increased odds of HCV infection. Prospective studies are needed to determine if sharing HDSSs is associated with increased HIV and HCV incidence among IDUs.
High dead-space syringes; Hepatitis C virus; HIV; Injecting drug users; Risk factors
We hypothesized that the high prevalence of HCV among injection drug users (IDUs) might be due to prolonged virus survival in contaminated syringes.
We developed a microculture assay to examine the viability of HCV. Syringes were loaded with blood spiked with HCV reporter virus (Jc1/GLuc2A) to simulate two scenarios of residual volumes; low (2 μl) void volume for 1-ml insulin syringes, and high (32 μl) void volume for 1-ml tuberculin syringes. Syringes were stored at 4°C, 22°C, and 37°C for up to 63 days before testing for HCV infectivity using luciferase activity.
The virus decay rate was biphasic (t½ α = 0.4h and t½β = 28h). Insulin syringes failed to yield viable HCV beyond day one at all storage temperatures except for 4o in which 5% of syringes yielded viable virus on day 7. Tuberculin syringes yielded viable virus from 96%, 71%, and 52% of syringes following storage at 4o, 22° and 37o for 7 days, respectively, and yielded viable virus up to day 63.
The high prevalence of HCV among IDUs may be partly due to the resilience of the virus and the syringe type. Our findings may be used to guide prevention strategies.
Hepatitis C virus; injection drug users; syringes; survival; transmission; luciferase activity
This study estimated the number of street injecting drug user (IDU) clients of a syringe-exchange program (SEP) who were infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). A two-sample capture-recapture method was carried out. The first capture listed all interviewed IDUs outreached for syringe exchange from April 1 to May 1, 1998; the second capture involved those outreached from May 2 to June 6, 1998. Blood spots were collected for HIV and HCV serologies. Analysis used captured probability model varying with time. We interviewed 55 IDUs in the first capture and 99 in the second; 17 participated in both samples. An estimate of 317 IDUs attending the SEP was obtained (95% confidence interval [CI] 235–467). Based on the overall seroprevalence rates for HIV (47.7%) and HCV (53.1%), it was estimated that 151 IDUs were HIV infected (95% CI 112–223) and 168 (95% CI 125–248) were HCV infected. Enumeration of IDUs associated with estimates of the total number of HIV and HCV seropositives provide a powerful tool for SEPs to help monitor the number of IDUs, to plan for provisions, and to organize the new demands on existing health facilities for HIV and HCV care.
Capture-recapture; HIV; HCV; Injecting drug users; Syringe-exchange program
A nascent HIV epidemic and high prevalence of risky drug practices were detected among injecting drug users (IDUs) in Kabul, Afghanistan from 2005-2006. We assessed prevalence of HIV, hepatitis C virus (HCV), hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg), syphilis, and needle and syringe program (NSP) use among this population.
IDUs were recruited between June, 2007 and March, 2009 and completed questionnaires and rapid testing for HIV, HCV, HBsAg, and syphilis; positive samples received confirmatory testing. Logistic regression was used to identify correlates of HIV, HCV, and current NSP use.
Of 483 participants, all were male and median age, age at first injection, and duration of injection were 28, 24, and 2.0 years, respectively. One-fifth (23.0%) had initiated injecting within the last year. Reported risky injecting practices included ever sharing needles/syringes (16.9%) or other injecting equipment (38.4%). Prevalence of HIV, HCV Ab, HBSAg, and syphilis was 2.1% (95% CI: 1.0-3.8), 36.1% (95% CI: 31.8-40.4), 4.6% (95% CI: 2.9-6.9), and 1.2% (95% CI: 0.5-2.7), respectively. HIV and HCV infection were both independently associated with sharing needles/syringes (AOR = 5.96, 95% CI: 1.58 - 22.38 and AOR = 2.33, 95% CI: 1.38 - 3.95, respectively). Approximately half (53.8%) of the participants were using NSP services at time of enrollment and 51.3% reported receiving syringes from NSPs in the last three months. Current NSP use was associated with initiating drug use with injecting (AOR = 2.58, 95% CI: 1.22 - 5.44), sharing injecting equipment in the last three months (AOR = 1.79, 95% CI: 1.16 - 2.77), prior incarceration (AOR = 1.57, 95% CI: 1.06 - 2.32), and greater daily frequency of injecting (AOR = 1.40 injections daily, 95% CI: 1.08 - 1.82).
HIV and HCV prevalence appear stable among Kabul IDUs, though the substantial number having recently initiated injecting raises concern that transmission risk may increase over time. Harm reduction programming appears to be reaching high-risk drug user populations; however, monitoring is warranted to determine efficacy of prevention programming in this dynamic environment.
injection drug user; Afghanistan; HIV; hepatitis C; harm reduction
To estimate the prevalence of HIV, HCV, HBV and co-infection with 2 or 3 viruses and evaluate risk factors among injecting drug users (IDUs) in Yunnan province, China.
2080 IDUs were recruited from 5 regions of Yunnan Province, China to detect the infection status of HIV, hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). Statistical analysis was performed to evaluate risk factors related to HIV, HCV and HBV infections.
The infection rates among all participants were 25.5% for HIV, 77.7% for HCV, 19.2% for HBV, 15% for HIV/HCV, 0.3% for HIV/HBV, 7.8% for HCV/HBV and 7.1% for HIV/HCV/HBV. The prevalence of virus infection varied widely by region in Yunnan of China. Statistical analyses indicated that high prevalence of HIV and HCV among IDUs was positively associated with the duration of drug injection and sharing needles/syringes; besides, HCV infection was associated with the frequency of drug injection.
HIV, HCV, HBV infections and co-infections were still very prevalent among IDUs in Yunnan province because of drug use behaviors.
To estimate the prevalence of HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV) co-infection as well as current risk behaviors among HIV positive and negative injection drug users (IDUs) in Chennai, India.
Cross-sectional analysis of a convenience sample of 912 IDUs recruited between March 2004 and April 2005. Specimens were tested for HIV, HBV and HCV. Adjusted prevalence ratios (PR) were estimated using Poisson regression with robust variance estimates.
The prevalence of HIV, HBsAg and anti-HCV were 29.8%, 11.1% and 62.1%, respectively. Among HIV-infected IDUs, prevalence of co-infection with anti-HCV and HBsAg/anti-HCV were 86% and 9.2%, respectively. In multivariate analysis, injecting at a dealer’s place (PR: 1.57) and duration of injection drug use ≥ 11 years (PR: 3.02) were positively associated with prevalent HIV infection. Contrastingly, alcohol consumption ≥ 1/week (PR: 0.55) was negatively associated with HIV. HIV positive IDUs were as or more likely compared to HIV negative IDUs to report recent high-risk injection-related behaviors.
There is a high burden of HIV, HCV and HBV among IDUs that needs to be addressed by improving access to therapies for these infections; further, preventive measures are urgently needed to prevent further spread of HIV, HBV and HCV in this vulnerable population.
The HIV prevalence among injecting drug users (IDUs) in Indonesia reached 50% in 2005. While drug use remains illegal in Indonesia, a needle and syringe program (NSP) was implemented in 2006.
In 2007, an integrated behavioural and biological surveillance survey was conducted among IDUs in six cities. IDUs were selected via time-location sampling and respondent-driven sampling. A questionnaire was administered face-to-face. IDUs from four cities were tested for HIV, syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia. Factors associated with HIV were assessed using generalized estimating equations. Risk for sexual transmission of HIV was assessed among HIV-positive IDUs.
Among 1,404 IDUs, 70% were daily injectors and 31% reported sharing needles in the past week. Most (76%) IDUs received injecting equipment from NSP in the prior week; 26% always carried a needle and those who didn’t, feared police arrest. STI prevalence was low (8%). HIV prevalence was 52%; 27% among IDUs injecting less than 1 year, 35% among those injecting for 1–3 years compared to 61% in long term injectors (p < 0.001). IDUs injecting for less than 3 years were more likely to have used clean needles in the past week compared to long term injectors (p < 0.001). HIV-positive status was associated with duration of injecting, ever been imprisoned and injecting in public parks. Among HIV-infected IDUs, consistent condom use last week with steady, casual and commercial sex partners was reported by 13%, 24% and 32%, respectively.
Although NSP uptake has possibly reduced HIV transmission among injectors with shorter injection history, the prevalence of HIV among IDUs in Indonesia remains unacceptably high. Condom use is insufficient, which advocates for strengthening prevention of sexual transmission alongside harm reduction programs.
Injecting drug users; HIV; Indonesia; Harm reduction
We determined the factors associated with hepatitis C (HCV) infection among rural Appalachian drug users.
This study included 394 injection drug users (IDUs) participating in a study of social networks and infectious disease risk in Appalachian Kentucky. Trained staff conducted HCV, HIV, and herpes simplex-2 virus (HSV-2) testing, and an interviewer-administered questionnaire measured self-reported risk behaviors and sociometric network characteristics.
The prevalence of HCV infection was 54.6% among rural IDUs. Lifetime factors independently associated with HCV infection included HSV-2, injecting for 5 or more years, posttraumatic stress disorder, injection of cocaine, and injection of prescription opioids. Recent (past-6-month) correlates of HCV infection included sharing of syringes (adjusted odds ratio = 2.24; 95% confidence interval = 1.32, 3.82) and greater levels of eigenvector centrality in the drug network.
One factor emerged that was potentially unique to rural IDUs: the association between injection of prescription opioids and HCV infection. Therefore, preventing transition to injection, especially among prescription opioid users, may curb transmission, as will increased access to opioid maintenance treatment, novel treatments for cocaine dependence, and syringe exchange.
To assess among injecting drug users (IDUs) in St Petersburg, Russia, the urban environmental, social norms, and individual correlates of unsafe injecting.
Between December 2004 and January 2007 IDUs (N=446) were interviewed in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Prevalence of HCV was 96% and HIV 44%; 17% reported receptive syringe sharing after an HIV infected IDU (RSS); 49% distributive syringe sharing (DSS); 76% sharing cookers, 73% sharing filters and 71% syringe mediated drug sharing (SMS) when not all syringes were new. Urban environmental characteristics correlated with sharing cookers and SMS; and social norms correlated with RSS, DSS and sharing cookers. Individual correlates included cleaning used syringes (all five dependent variables) and self-report of HIV infection (RSS and DSS).
HIV status disclosure is an unreliable but frequently used HIV prevention method among IDUs in St. Petersburg, who reported alarmingly high levels of injecting equipment sharing. Voluntary counseling and testing should be widely available for this population. Ethnography is needed to assess the effectiveness of the syringe cleaning process. Prevention interventions need to be ongoing among IDUs in St. Petersburg, and should incorporate urban environmental factors and social norms, which may involve peer education and social network interventions.
Russia; Injecting drug users; Injecting equipment sharing; HIV infection; Hepatitis infections
Injection drug use contributes to considerable global morbidity and mortality associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and AIDS and other infections due to blood-borne pathogens through the direct sharing of needles, syringes, and other injection equipment. Of ~16 million injection drug users (IDUs) worldwide, an estimated 3 million are HIV infected. The prevalence of HIV infection among IDUs is high in many countries in Asia and eastern Europe and could exacerbate the HIV epidemic in sub- Saharan Africa. This review summarizes important components of a comprehensive program for prevention of HIV infection in IDUs, including unrestricted legal access to sterile syringes through needle exchange programs and enhanced pharmacy services, treatment for opioid dependence (i.e., methadone and buprenorphine treatment), behavioral interventions, and identification and treatment of noninjection drug and alcohol use, which accounts for increased sexual transmission of HIV. Evidence supports the effectiveness of harm-reduction programs over punitive drug-control policies.
Hepatitis C prevention counselling and education are intended to increase knowledge of disease, clarify perceptions about vulnerability to infection, and increase personal capacity for undertaking safer behaviours. This study examined the association of drug equipment sharing with psychosocial constructs of the AIDS Risk Reduction Model, specifically, knowledge and perceptions related to hepatitis C virus (HCV) among injection drug users (IDUs). Active IDUs were recruited between April 2004 and January 2005 from syringe exchange and methadone maintenance treatment programs in Montreal, Canada. A structured, interviewer-administered questionnaire elicited information on drug preparation and injection practices, self-reported hepatitis C testing and infection status, and AIDS Risk Reduction Model constructs. Separate logistic regression models were developed to examine variables in relation to: (1) the sharing of syringes, and (2) the sharing of drug preparation equipment (drug containers, filters, and water). Among the 321 participants, the mean age was 33 years, 70% were male, 80% were single, and 91% self-identified as Caucasian. In the multivariable analyses, psychosocial factors linked to syringe sharing were lower perceived benefits of safer injecting and greater difficulty to inject safely. As with syringe sharing, the sharing of drug preparation equipment was associated with lower perceived benefits of safer injecting but also with low self-efficacy to convince others to inject more safely. Interventions should aim to heighten awareness of the benefits of risk reduction and provide IDUs with the skills necessary to negotiate safer injecting with their peers.
PMID: 17920741 CAMSID: cams1473
Knowledge; Self-efficacy; Risk perceptions; Hepatitis C; Injection drug use; Canada
Injection drug users (IDUs) are at increased risk for many health problems, including acquisition of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis B and C. These risks are compounded by barriers in obtaining legal, sterile syringes and in accessing necessary medical care. In 1999, we established the first-ever syringe prescription program in Providence, Rhode Island, to provide legal access to sterile syringes, reduce HIV risk behaviors, and encourage entry into medical care. Physicians provided free medical care, counseling, disease testing, vaccination, community referrals, and prescriptions for sterile syringes for patients who were not ready to stop injecting. We recruited 327 actively injecting people. Enrolled participants had limited stable contact with the health care system at baseline; 45% were homeless, 59% were uninsured, and 63% did not have a primary care physician. Many reported high-risk injection behaviors such as sharing syringes (43% in the last 30 days), reusing syringes (median of eight times), and obtaining syringes from unreliable sources (80%). This program demonstrates the feasibility, acceptability, and unique features of syringe prescription for IDUs. The fact that drug use is acknowledged allows an open and frank discussion of risk behaviors and other issues often not disclosed to physicians. The syringe prescription program in Providence represents a promising and innovative approach to disease prevention and treatment for IDUs.
Injection drug users; HIV; Hepatitis B; Hepatitis C; Syringe prescription program
Injection drug users (IDUs) are at risk for infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Information on time trends in prevalence of these viruses among IDUs and in behaviors influencing their transmission can help define the status of these epidemics and of public health efforts to control them. We conducted a secondary data analysis combining cross-sectional data from IDUs aged 18–30 years enrolled in four Seattle-area studies from 1994 to 2004. Participants in all four studies were tested for antibody to HIV (anti-HIV), hepatitis B core antigen (anti-HBc), and HCV (anti-HCV), and completed behavioral risk assessments. Logistic regression was used to investigate trends in prevalence over time after controlling for sociodemographic, drug use, and sexual behavior variables. Between 1994 and 2004, anti-HBc prevalence declined from 43 to 15% (p < 0.001), anti-HCV prevalence fell from 68 to 32% (p < 0.001) and anti-HIV prevalence remained constant at 2–3%. Declines in anti-HBc and anti-HCV prevalence were observed within the individual studies, although not all these declines were statistically significant. The declines in anti-HBc and anti-HCV prevalence remained significant after control for confounding. Although we did not observe coincident declines in injection equipment sharing practices, there were increases in self-reported needle-exchange use, condom use, and hepatitis B vaccination. We conclude that there has been a substantial and sustained reduction in prevalence rates for HBV and HCV infection among young Seattle IDUs, while HIV rates have remained low and stable.
HIV; Hepatitis B; Hepatitis C; Injection drug users; Adolescents; Needle sharing; Needle exchange; Hepatitis B vaccination
The HIV epidemic in Russia is concentrated among injection drug users (IDUs). This is especially true for St. Petersburg where high HIV incidence persists among the city’s estimated 80,000 IDUs. Although sterile syringes are legally available, access for IDUs may be hampered. To explore the feasibility of using pharmacies to expand syringe access and provide other prevention services to IDUs, we investigated the current access to sterile syringes at the pharmacies and the correlation between pharmacy density and HIV prevalence in St. Petersburg.
965 pharmacies citywide were mapped, classified by ownership type, and the association between pharmacy density and HIV prevalence at the district level was tested. We selected two districts among the 18 districts – one central and one peripheral – that represented two major types of city districts and contacted all operating pharmacies by phone to inquire if they stocked syringes and obtained details about their stock. Qualitative interviews with 26 IDUs provided data regarding syringe access in pharmacies and were used to formulate hypotheses for the pharmacy syringe purchase test wherein research staff attempted to purchase syringes in all pharmacies in the two districts.
No correlation was found between the density of pharmacies and HIV prevalence at the district level. Of 108 operating pharmacies, 38 (35%) did not sell syringes of the types used by IDUs; of these, half stocked but refused to sell syringes to research staff, and the other half did not stock syringes at all. Overall 70 (65%) of the pharmacies did sell syringes; of these, 49 pharmacies sold single syringes without any restrictions and 21 offered packages of ten.
Trainings for pharmacists need to be conducted to reduce negative attitudes towards IDUs and increase pharmacists’ willingness to sell syringes. At a structural level, access to safe injection supplies for IDUs could be increased by including syringes in the federal list of mandatory medical products sold by pharmacies.
Injection drug use; HIV prevention; Syringe access; Pharmacy
An outbreak of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection occurred among injecting drug users (IDU) in Taiwan between 2003 and 2006, when an extremely high prevalence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection was also detected. To determine whether clusters of hepatitis D virus (HDV) infection occurred in this outbreak, 4 groups of subjects were studied: group 1, HIV-infected IDU (n = 904); group 2, HIV-infected non-IDU (n = 880); group 3, HIV-uninfected IDU (n = 211); and group 4, HIV-uninfected non-IDU (n = 1,928). The seroprevalence of hepatitis B virus (HBV) was 19.8%, 18.4%, 17.1%, and 6.7%, and HDV seroprevalence among HBV carriers was 75.4%, 9.3%, 66.7%, and 2.3%, for groups 1, 2, 3, and 4, respectively. Ninety-nine of 151 (65.6%) HDV-seropositive IDU had HDV viremia: 5 were infected with HDV genotype I, 41 with genotype II, 51 with genotype IV, and 2 with genotypes II and IV. In the phylogenetic analysis, only one cluster of 4 strains within the HDV genotype II was identified. Among patients with HCV viremia, a unique cluster within genotype 1a was observed; yet, patients within this cluster did not overlap with those observed in the HDV phylogenetic analysis. In summary, although IDU had a significantly higher HDV seroprevalence, molecular epidemiologic investigations did not support that HDV was introduced at the same time as HCV among IDU.
Estonia has experienced an HIV epidemic among intravenous drug users (IDUs) with the highest per capita HIV prevalence in Eastern Europe. We assessed the effects of expanded syringe exchange programs (SEP) in the capital city, Tallinn, which has an estimated 10,000 IDUs.
SEP implementation was monitored with data from the Estonian National Institute for Health Development. Respondent driven sampling (RDS) interview surveys with HIV testing were conducted in Tallinn in 2005, 2007 and 2009 (involving 350, 350 and 327 IDUs respectively). HIV incidence among new injectors (those injecting for < = 3 years) was estimated by assuming (1) new injectors were HIV seronegative when they began injecting, and (2) HIV infection occurred at the midpoint between first injection and time of interview.
SEP increased from 230,000 syringes exchanged in 2005 to 440,000 in 2007 and 770,000 in 2009. In all three surveys, IDUs were predominantly male (80%), ethnic Russians (>80%), and young adults (mean ages 24 to 27 years). The proportion of new injectors decreased significantly over the years (from 21% in 2005 to 12% in 2009, p = 0.005). HIV prevalence among all respondents stabilized at slightly over 50% (54% in 2005, 55% in 2007, 51% in 2009), and decreased among new injectors (34% in 2005, 16% in 2009, p = 0.046). Estimated HIV incidence among new injectors decreased significantly from 18/100 person-years in 2005 and 21/100 person-years in 2007 to 9/100 person-years in 2009 (p = 0.026).
In Estonia, a transitional country, a decrease in the HIV prevalence among new injectors and in the numbers of people initiating injection drug use coincided with implementation of large-scale SEPs. Further reductions in HIV transmission among IDUs are still required. Provision of 70 or more syringes per IDU per year may be needed before significant reductions in HIV incidence occur.
Syringe-exchange programs (SEPs) in Connecticut operate with caps on the number of syringes exchanged per visit. We investigated the effects of legislation increasing the cap on drug injectors' access to clean syringes through the SEPs in New Haven and Hartford. The mixed design of this study included longitudinal and crosssectional data from individuals and ecological data from program operations. Five parameters—syringe return rate, syringes per visit to the SEP, syringe reuse rate, syringe human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalence, and syringe sharing—were monitored through syringe tracking and testing of SEP syringes and by interviewing injectors. Two increases in the cap—from 5 to 10 and then from 10 to 30—had little effect on the five parameters that measured injectors' access to clean syringes. In contrast, access to clean syringes increased when the New Haven SEP first began operations, when syringes first became available at pharmacies in Hartford, and when the agency running the Hartford SEP changed. Legislation providing piecemeal increases in the cap may not, by themselves, be sufficient to increase injectors' access to clean syringes and decrease the risk of human immunodeficiency virus transmission in this population.
HIV transmission; Injection drug use; Syringe exchange
Injecting drug users (IDUs) are at increased risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV and other bloodborne pathogens through the multi-person use of syringes. Although research has shown that increased access to syringes through syringe exchange programs (SEPs) is an effective strategy to reduce risky injection practices many areas of the United States still do not have SEPs. In the absence of SEPs, legislation allowing pharmacies over-the-counter sales of syringes has also been shown to reduce syringe sharing. The success of pharmacy sales however is limited by other legal stipulations, such as drug paraphernalia laws, which in turn may contribute to fear among IDUs about being caught purchasing and carrying syringes.
Between 2003 and 2006, 851 out-of-treatment IDUs were recruited using street outreach in the Raleigh-Durham (North Carolina) area. Data were collected using audio-computer assisted interview (ACASI) technology. Multiple logistic regression analyses were performed to assess factors associated with purchasing syringes from pharmacies.
In our study sample, African-American IDUs were one-fifth as likely as white IDUs to report pharmacies as their primary source of syringes.
Given the absence of syringe exchange programs and the relatively high prevalence of HCV and HIV among IDUs in the Raleigh-Durham area, the limited use of pharmacies as a source of syringes among African-American IDUs in this study sample is problematic. The study findings support the need for effective multilevel interventions to increase access to clean needles in this population, as well as for policy interventions, such as legalization of SEPs and elimination of penalties for carrying syringes, to reduce harm and eliminate the health threats posed by receptive syringe sharing.
Injecting drug users; African-Americans; purchasing syringes; carrying syringes
In California, injection drug users (IDUs) comprise the second leading risk group for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection and the majority of hepatitis C virus (HCV) cases. Innovative disease screening and prevention activities are needed to improve disease surveillance and to guide appropriate public health responses. This study tested the hypothesis that offering HIV counseling and testing (C&T) concurrently with HCV C&T will increase HIV C&T rates among IDUs.
From February through June 2003, HIV and HCV C&T were integrated in five California local health jurisdictions. HIV C&T and disclosure rates among IDUs were monitored when HIV C&T was offered alone during a baseline phase and when offered with HCV C&T during an intervention phase.
Among IDUs, HIV C&T rates were significantly higher when HIV and HCV C&T were offered together (27.1%, 354/1,305) than when HIV C&T services were offered alone (8.4%, 138/1,645) (p<0.05). HIV disclosure rates increased from 54.3% (75/138) when only HIV test results were disclosed to 71.8% (254/354) when HIV test results were disclosed concurrently with HCV test results (p<0.05). HCV prevalence among IDUs tested ranged from 23% to 75% at the five project sites. Integrating HIV and HCV C&T increased overall C&T time required for staff and clients and increased stress among counselors due to the number of positive test results (HCV) given to clients.
Study results suggest that integrating HIV and HCV C&T can increase disease screening rates among IDUs. Careful planning of integrated staff activities and schedules is recommended.