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1.  Risk factors for elevated HIV incidence among Aboriginal injection drug users in Vancouver 
Because of established links between entrenched poverty and risk of HIV infection, there have long been warnings that HIV/AIDS will disproportionately affect Aboriginal people in Canada. We compared HIV incidence rates among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal injection drug users (IDUs) in Vancouver and studied factors associated with HIV seroconversion among Aboriginal participants.
This analysis was based on 941 participants (230 Aboriginal people) recruited between May 1996 and December 2000 who were seronegative at enrolment and had completed at least one follow-up visit. Incidence rates were calculated using the Kaplan–Meier method. The Cox proportional hazards regression model was used to identify independent predictors of time to HIV seroconversion among female and male Aboriginal IDUs.
As of May 31, 2001, seroconversion had occurred in 112 (11.9%) of the participants, yielding a cumulative incidence of HIV infection at 42 months of 12.7% (95% confidence interval [CI] 10.3%–15.1%). The cumulative incidence at 42 months was significantly higher among the Aboriginal participants than among the non-Aboriginal participants (21.1% v. 10.7%, p < 0.001). This elevation in risk was present in both female and male Aboriginal IDUs. Among the female Aboriginal IDUs, frequent speedball (combined cocaine and heroin) injection (adjusted relative risk [RR] 3.1; 95% CI 1.4–7.1) and going on binges of injection drug use (adjusted RR 2.3; 95% CI 1.0–5.2) were found to be independent predictors of HIV seroconversion. Among the male Aboriginal IDUs, the independent predictors of seroconversion were frequent speedball injection (adjusted RR 2.9; 95% CI 1.0–8.5) and frequent cocaine injection (adjusted RR 2.5; 95% CI 1.0–6.5).
In Vancouver, Aboriginal IDUs are becoming HIV positive at twice the rate of non-Aboriginal IDUs. Our findings emphasize the urgent need for an appropriate and effective public health strategy — planned and implemented in partnership with Aboriginal AIDS service organizations and the Aboriginal community — to reduce the harms of injection drug use in this population.
PMCID: PMC139313  PMID: 12515780
2.  Effectiveness and Cost Effectiveness of Expanding Harm Reduction and Antiretroviral Therapy in a Mixed HIV Epidemic: A Modeling Analysis for Ukraine 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(3):e1000423.
A cost-effectiveness study by Sabina Alistar and colleagues evaluates the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of different levels of investment in methadone, ART, or both, in the mixed HIV epidemic in Ukraine.
Injection drug use (IDU) and heterosexual virus transmission both contribute to the growing mixed HIV epidemics in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. In Ukraine—chosen in this study as a representative country—IDU-related risk behaviors cause half of new infections, but few injection drug users (IDUs) receive methadone substitution therapy. Only 10% of eligible individuals receive antiretroviral therapy (ART). The appropriate resource allocation between these programs has not been studied. We estimated the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of strategies for expanding methadone substitution therapy programs and ART in mixed HIV epidemics, using Ukraine as a case study.
Methods and Findings
We developed a dynamic compartmental model of the HIV epidemic in a population of non-IDUs, IDUs using opiates, and IDUs on methadone substitution therapy, stratified by HIV status, and populated it with data from the Ukraine. We considered interventions expanding methadone substitution therapy, increasing access to ART, or both. We measured health care costs, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), HIV prevalence, infections averted, and incremental cost-effectiveness. Without incremental interventions, HIV prevalence reached 67.2% (IDUs) and 0.88% (non-IDUs) after 20 years. Offering methadone substitution therapy to 25% of IDUs reduced prevalence most effectively (to 53.1% IDUs, 0.80% non-IDUs), and was most cost-effective, averting 4,700 infections and adding 76,000 QALYs compared with no intervention at US$530/QALY gained. Expanding both ART (80% coverage of those eligible for ART according to WHO criteria) and methadone substitution therapy (25% coverage) was the next most cost-effective strategy, adding 105,000 QALYs at US$1,120/QALY gained versus the methadone substitution therapy-only strategy and averting 8,300 infections versus no intervention. Expanding only ART (80% coverage) added 38,000 QALYs at US$2,240/QALY gained versus the methadone substitution therapy-only strategy, and averted 4,080 infections versus no intervention. Offering ART to 80% of non-IDUs eligible for treatment by WHO criteria, but only 10% of IDUs, averted only 1,800 infections versus no intervention and was not cost effective.
Methadone substitution therapy is a highly cost-effective option for the growing mixed HIV epidemic in Ukraine. A strategy that expands both methadone substitution therapy and ART to high levels is the most effective intervention, and is very cost effective by WHO criteria. When expanding ART, access to methadone substitution therapy provides additional benefit in infections averted. Our findings are potentially relevant to other settings with mixed HIV epidemics.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
HIV epidemics in Eastern Europe and Central Asia are mainly driven by increasing use of injection drugs combined with heterosexual transmission. In the Ukraine, in 2007, there were 82,000 officially registered people living with HIV—three times the number registered in 1999—and an estimated 395,000 HIV infected adults. The epidemic in Ukraine, like other countries in the region, is concentrated in at-risk populations, particularly people who inject drugs: in 2007, an estimated 390,000 Ukrainians were injecting drugs, an increase in drug use over the previous decade, not only in Ukraine, but in other former USSR states, owing to the easy availability of precursors for injection drugs in a climate of economic collapse.
The common practices of people who inject drugs in Ukraine and in other countries in the region, such as social injecting, syringe sharing, and using common containers, increase the risk of transmitting HIV. Public health interventions such as needle exchange can limit these risk factors and have been gradually implemented in these countries. In 2007, Ukraine approved the use of methadone substitution therapy and the current target is for 11,000 people who inject drugs to be enrolled in substitution therapy by 2011. Furthermore, since treatment for HIV-infected individuals is also necessary, national HIV control plans included a target of 90% antiretroviral therapy (ART) coverage by 2010 but in 2007 less than 10% of the 91,000 eligible people received treatment. Although the number of people who inject drugs and who receive ART is unknown, physicians are often reluctant to treat people who inject drugs using ART owing to alleged poor compliance.
Why Was This Study Done?
As resources for HIV interventions in the region are limited, it is important to investigate the appropriate balance between investments in methadone substitution therapy and ART in order to maximize benefits to public health. Several studies have analyzed the cost effectiveness of methadone substitution therapy in similar settings but have not considered tradeoffs between ART and methadone substitution therapy. Therefore, to provide insights into the appropriate public health investment in methadone substitution therapy and ART in Ukraine, the researchers evaluated the public health effectiveness and cost effectiveness of different strategies for scaling up methadone substitution therapy and/or expanding ART.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers developed a model to accommodate different population groups: people who inject drugs on substitution therapy with methadone; people who inject opiates and do not take any substitution therapy; and people who do not inject any drugs, hence do not need substitution therapy. The researchers inputted Ukraine country-level data into this model and used current HIV trends in Ukraine to make rational assumptions on possible future trends and scenarios. They considered scenarios expanding methadone substitution therapy availability, increasing acces to ART, or both. Then, the researchers measured health care costs, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs), HIV prevalence, infections averted, and incremental cost effectiveness for the different scenarios. They found that after 20 years, HIV prevalence reached 67.2% in people who inject drugs and 0.88% in people who do not inject drugs without further interventions. Offering methadone substitution therapy to 25% of people who inject drugs was the most effective strategy in reducing prevalence of HIV and was also the most cost effective, averting 4,700 infections and adding 75,700 QALYs versus the status quo at $530/QALY gained. Expanding both methadone substitution therapy and ART was also a highly cost effective option, adding 105,000 QALYs at US$1,120/QALY gained versus the methadone substitution therapy-only strategy. Offering ART to 80% of eligible people who did not inject drugs, and 10% of people who injected drugs averted only 1,800 infections, and added 76,400 QALYs at $1,330/QALY gained.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The results show that methadone substitution-focused therapeutic scenarios are the most cost effective, and that benefits increase with the scale of the project, even among people who do not inject drugs. This makes a methadone substitution strategy a highly cost-effective option for addressing the growing HIV epidemic in Ukraine. Therefore, if it is not feasible to invest in large-scale methadone substitution programs for any reason, political circumstances for example, providing as much methadone substitution as is acceptable is still desirable. While substitution therapy appears to avert the most HIV infections, expanded ART provides the largest total increase in QALYs. Thus, methadone substitution therapy and ART offer complementary benefits. Because the HIV epidemic in Ukraine is representative of the HIV epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the cost-effective strategies that the researchers have identified may help inform all decision makers faced with a mixed HIV epidemic.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Alliance provides information on its work supporting community action on AIDS in Ukraine
USAID provides an HIV/AIDS Health Profile for Ukraine
UNICEF provides information about its activities to help Ukraine fight rising HIV/AIDS infection rates
International Harm Reduction Association provides information about the status of harm reduction interventions such as methadone substitution therapy around the world
PMCID: PMC3046988  PMID: 21390264
3.  Elevated rates of HIV infection among young Aboriginal injection drug users in a Canadian setting 
Recent reports have suggested that Aboriginal and American Indian people are at elevated risk of HIV infection. We undertook the present study to compare socio-demographic and risk variables between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal young (aged 13 – 24 years) injection drug users (IDUs) and characterize the burden of HIV infection among young Aboriginal IDUs.
We compared socio-demographic and risk variables between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal young IDUs. Data were collected through the Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study (VIDUS). Semi-annually, participants have completed an interviewer-administered questionnaire and have undergone serologic testing for HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV).
To date over 1500 Vancouver IDU have been enrolled and followed, among whom 291 were aged 24 years and younger. Of the 291 young injectors, 80 (27%) were Aboriginal. In comparison to non-Aboriginal youth, Aboriginal youth were more likely to test seropositive for either HIV (20% vs 7%, p=< 0.001) or Hepatitis C virus (HCV) (66% vs 38%, p =< 0.001), be involved in sex work and live in the city's IDU epi-centre at baseline. After 48 months of follow-up, Aboriginal youth experienced significantly higher HIV seroconversion rates than non-Aboriginal youth, 27.8 per ppy (95% CI: 13.4–42.2) vs. 7.0 per ppy (95% CI: 2.3–11.8) respectively (log-rank p = 0.005) and the incidence density over the entire follow-up period was 12.6 per 100 pyrs (CI: 6.49–21.96) and 3.9 per 100 pyrs (CI: 1.8–7.3) respectively.
These findings demonstrate that culturally relevant, evidence based prevention programs are urgently required to prevent HIV infection among Aboriginal youth.
PMCID: PMC1431516  PMID: 16524484
4.  Changes in HIV Incidence among People Who Inject Drugs in Taiwan following Introduction of a Harm Reduction Program: A Study of Two Cohorts 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(4):e1001625.
Kenrad Nelson and colleagues report on the association between HIV incidence and exposure to a national harm-reduction program among people who inject drugs in Taiwan.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Harm reduction strategies for combating HIV epidemics among people who inject drugs (PWID) have been implemented in several countries. However, large-scale studies using sensitive measurements of HIV incidence and intervention exposures in defined cohorts are rare. The aim of this study was to determine the association between harm reduction programs and HIV incidence among PWID.
Methods and Findings
The study included two populations. For 3,851 PWID who entered prison between 2004 and 2010 and tested HIV positive upon incarceration, we tested their sera using a BED HIV-1 capture enzyme immunoassay to estimate HIV incidence. Also, we enrolled in a prospective study a cohort of 4,357 individuals who were released from prison via an amnesty on July 16, 2007. We followed them with interviews at intervals of 6–12 mo and by linking several databases. A total of 2,473 participants who were HIV negative in January 2006 had interviews between then and 2010 to evaluate the association between use of harm reduction programs and HIV incidence. We used survival methods with attendance at methadone clinics as a time-varying covariate to measure the association with HIV incidence. We used a Poisson regression model and calculated the HIV incidence rate to evaluate the association between needle/syringe program use and HIV incidence. Among the population of PWID who were imprisoned, the implementation of comprehensive harm reduction programs and a lower mean community HIV viral load were associated with a reduced HIV incidence among PWID. The HIV incidence in this population of PWID decreased from 18.2% in 2005 to 0.3% in 2010. In an individual-level analysis of the amnesty cohort, attendance at methadone clinics was associated with a significantly lower HIV incidence (adjusted hazard ratio: 0.20, 95% CI: 0.06–0.67), and frequent users of needle/syringe program services had lower HIV incidence (0% in high NSP users, 0.5% in non NSP users). In addition, no HIV seroconversions were detected among prison inmates.
Although our data are affected by participation bias, they strongly suggest that comprehensive harm- reduction services and free treatment were associated with reversal of a rapidly emerging epidemic of HIV among PWID.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
About 35 million people worldwide are currently infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and about 2.3 million people become newly infected every year. HIV is mainly transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected partner. However, people who inject drugs (PWID) have a particularly high risk of HIV infection because blood transfer through needle and syringe sharing can transmit the virus. It is estimated that 5%–10% of all people living with HIV are PWID. Indeed, in some regions of the world the primary route of HIV transmission is through shared drug injection equipment and the prevalence (the proportion of a population that has a specific disease) of HIV infection among PWID is very high. In Asia, for example, more than a quarter of PWID are HIV positive. Because the high prevalence of HIV among PWID poses a global health challenge, bodies such as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS endorse harm reduction strategies to prevent risky injection behaviors among PWID. These strategies include the provision of clean needles and syringes, opioid substitution therapy such as methadone maintenance treatment, and antiretroviral treatment for HIV-positive PWID.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although harm reduction strategies for combating HIV epidemics among PWID have been implemented in several countries, few large-scale studies have examined the association between HIV incidence (the proportion of new cases of HIV in a population per year) and exposure to harm reduction programs among PWID. In this cohort study (an investigation that determines the characteristics of a group of people and then follows them over time), the researchers determine the association between harm reduction programs and HIV incidence among PWID in Taiwan. HIV infections used to be rare among the 60,000 PWID living in Taiwan, but after the introduction of a new HIV strain into the country in 2003, an HIV epidemic spread rapidly. In response, the Taiwanese government introduced a pilot program of harm reduction that included the provision of clean needles and syringes and health education in July 2005. The program was expanded to include methadone maintenance treatment in early 2006 and implemented nationwide in June 2006.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled two study populations. The first cohort comprised 3,851 PWID who were incarcerated for illicit drug use between 2004 and 2010 and who tested positive for HIV upon admission into prison. By using the BED assay, which indicates whether an HIV infection is recent, the researchers were able to determine the HIV incidence among the prisoners. In 2004, the estimated HIV incidence among prisoners with a history of drug injection was 6.44%. The incidence peaked in 2005 at 18.2%, but fell to 0.3% in 2010.
The second study population comprised 2,473 individuals who were HIV negative on January 1, 2006, and who had been incarcerated for drug use crimes but were released on July 16, 2007, during an amnesty. The researchers regularly interviewed these participants between their release and 2010 about their use of harm reduction interventions, and obtained other data about them (for example, diagnosis of HIV infection) from official databases. Analysis of all these data indicated that, in this cohort, attendance at methadone maintenance treatment clinics and frequent use of needle and syringe services were both associated with a significantly lower HIV incidence.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the introduction of a comprehensive harm reduction program in Taiwan was associated with a significant reduction in the HIV incidence rate among PWID. These findings must be interpreted with caution, however. First, because the participants in the study were selected from PWID with histories of incarceration, the findings may not be representative of all PWID in Taiwan or of PWID in other countries. Second, PWID who chose to use needle and syringe services or methadone maintenance treatment clinics might have shared other unknown characteristics that affected their risk of HIV infection. Finally, some of the reduction in HIV incidence seen during the study is likely to be associated with the availability of free treatment, which has been offered to all HIV-positive individuals in Taiwan since 1997. Despite these limitations, these findings suggest that countries with a high prevalence and incidence of HIV among PWID should provide comprehensive harm reduction services to their populations to reduce risky drug injection behaviors.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on injecting drug users and HIV/AIDS and on harm reduction and HIV prevention (in English and Spanish)
The US National Institute on Drug Abuse also provides information about drug abuse and HIV/AIDS (in English and Spanish)
The 2013 UNAIDS World AIDS Day report provides up-to-date information about the AIDS epidemic and efforts to halt it
Personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert, Nam/aidsmap, and Healthtalkonline
PMCID: PMC3979649  PMID: 24714449
5.  Prevalence and incidence of hepatitis C virus infection among Aboriginal young people who use drugs: results from the Cedar Project 
Open Medicine  2009;3(4):e220-e227.
We sought to estimate the prevalence and incidence of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among Aboriginal young people who use drugs and to identify risk factors associated with HCV infection in this population.
The Cedar Project is a longitudinal study involving Aboriginal young people living in Vancouver and Prince George, British Columbia. Eligibility criteria include age from 14 to 30 years and self-reported use (smoking or injection) of illicit drugs (e.g., crystal methamphetamine, crack cocaine, heroin or other opiates, and cocaine) at least once in the month before enrolment. At each visit, participants completed a detailed questionnaire administered by an Aboriginal interviewer. For this analysis, we included information for 512 participants who were recruited between September 2003 and April 2005.
Among the 512 participants, the prevalence of HCV infection was 34.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] 30.6%–38.9%); the rates were similar in Prince George and Vancouver (34.5% and 35.0% respectively, p = 0.37). Among those who reported the use of injection drugs at baseline (n = 286), the prevalence of HCV infection was 59.4% (95% CI 53.8%–65.1%); the rate in this group was slightly higher in Prince George than in Vancouver (62.4% v. 57.1% respectively, p = 0.37). The prevalence was 3.5% among participants who reported smoking drugs (n = 226). In the multivariate logistic regression analysis, factors significantly associated with HCV infection among participants who used injection drugs included daily injection of opiates (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 2.7, 95% CI 1.0–7.4), reuse of syringes (adjusted OR 2.4, 95% CI 1.3–4.4), having at least 1 parent who attended residential school (adjusted OR 1.9, 95% CI 1.1–3.4), female sex (adjusted OR 1.9, 95% CI 1.1–3.4) and duration of injection drug use (per year) (adjusted OR 1.4, 95% CI 1.3–1.5). The crude incidence rate of HCV infection was 10.6% and the incidence density estimate was 9.9 per 100 person-years in this cohort.
The prevalence of HCV infection was elevated among Aboriginal young people living in Prince George and Vancouver who use drugs. Culturally based prevention, treatment and harm-reduction programs are urgently needed in this population.
PMCID: PMC3090112  PMID: 21688759
6.  Factors associated with pretreatment and treatment dropouts: comparisons between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal clients admitted to medical withdrawal management 
Addiction treatment faces high pretreatment and treatment dropout rates, especially among Aboriginals. In this study we examined characteristic differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal clients accessing an inpatient medical withdrawal management program, and identified risk factors associated with the probabilities of pretreatment and treatment dropouts, respectively.
2231 unique clients (Aboriginal = 451; 20%) referred to Vancouver Detox over a two-year period were assessed. For both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal groups, multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted with pretreatment dropout and treatment dropout as dependent variables, respectively.
Aboriginal clients had higher pretreatment and treatment dropout rates compared to non-Aboriginal clients (41.0% vs. 32.7% and 25.9% vs. 20.0%, respectively). For Aboriginal people, no fixed address (NFA) was the only predictor of pretreatment dropout. For treatment dropout, significant predictors were: being female, having HCV infection, and being discharged on welfare check issue days or weekends. For non-Aboriginal clients, being male, NFA, alcohol as a preferred substance, and being on methadone maintenance treatment (MMT) at referral were associated with pretreatment dropout. Significant risk factors for treatment dropout were: being younger, having a preferred substance other than alcohol, having opiates as a preferred substance, and being discharged on weekends.
Our results highlight the importance of social factors for the Aboriginal population compared to substance-specific factors for the non-Aboriginal population. These findings should help clinicians and decision-makers to recognize the importance of social supports especially housing and initiate appropriate services to improve treatment intake and subsequent retention, physical and mental health outcomes and the cost-effectiveness of treatment.
PMCID: PMC3878858  PMID: 24325629
Aboriginal; Housing; Pretreatment dropout rate; Treatment dropout rate; Withdrawal management; Substance use disorders; Detoxification
7.  Dialysis and transplantation among Aboriginal children with kidney failure 
Relatively little is known about the management and outcomes of Aboriginal children with renal failure in Canada. We evaluated differences in dialysis modality, time spent on dialysis, rates of kidney transplantation, and patient and allograft survival between Aboriginal children and non-Aboriginal children.
For this population-based cohort study, we used data from a national pediatric end-stage renal disease database. Patients less than 18 years old who started renal replacement treatment (dialysis or kidney transplantation) in nine Canadian provinces (Quebec data were not available) and all three territories between 1992 and 2007 were followed until death, loss to follow-up or end of the study period. We compared initial modality of dialysis and time to first kidney transplant between Aboriginal children, white children and children of other ethnicity. We examined the association between ethnicity and likelihood of kidney transplantation using adjusted Cox proportional hazard models for Aboriginal and white children (data for the children of other ethnicity did not meet the assumptions of proportional hazards).
Among 843 pediatric patients included in the study, 104 (12.3%) were Aboriginal, 521 (61.8%) were white, and 218 (25.9%) were from other ethnic minorities. Hemodialysis was the initial modality of dialysis for 48.0% of the Aboriginal patients, 42.7% of the white patients and 62.6% of those of other ethnicity (p < 0.001). The time from start of dialysis to first kidney transplant was longer among the Aboriginal children (median 1.75 years, interquartile range 0.69–2.81) than among the children in the other two groups (p < 0.001). After adjustment for confounders, Aboriginal children were less likely than white children to receive a transplant from a living donor (hazard ratio [HR] 0.36, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.21–0.61) or a transplant from any donor (HR 0.54, 95% CI 0.40–0.74) during the study period.
The time from start of dialysis to first kidney transplant was longer among Aboriginal children than among white children. Further evaluation is needed to determine barriers to transplantation among Aboriginal children.
PMCID: PMC3134757  PMID: 21609989
8.  The Cedar Project: high incidence of HCV infections in a longitudinal study of young Aboriginal people who use drugs in two Canadian cities 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:632.
Factors associated with HCV incidence among young Aboriginal people in Canada are still not well understood. We sought to estimate time to HCV infection and the relative hazard of risk factors associated HCV infection among young Aboriginal people who use injection drugs in two Canadian cities.
The Cedar Project is a prospective cohort study involving young Aboriginal people in Vancouver and Prince George, British Columbia, who use illicit drugs. Participants’ venous blood samples were drawn and tested for HCV antibodies. Analysis was restricted to participants who use used injection drugs at enrolment or any of follow up visit. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to identify independent predictors of time to HCV seroconversion.
In total, 45 out of 148 participants seroconverted over the study period. Incidence of HCV infection was 26.3 per 100 person-years (95% Confidence Interval [CI]: 16.3, 46.1) among participants who reported using injection drugs for two years or less, 14.4 per 100 person-years (95% CI: 7.7, 28.9) among participants who had been using injection drugs for between two and five years, and 5.1 per 100 person-years (95% CI: 2.6,10.9) among participants who had been using injection drugs for over five years. Independent associations with HCV seroconversion were involvement in sex work in the last six months (Adjusted Hazard Ratio (AHR): 1.59; 95% CI: 1.05, 2.42) compared to no involvement, having been using injection drugs for less than two years (AHR: 4.14; 95% CI: 1.91, 8.94) and for between two and five years (AHR: 2.12; 95%CI: 0.94, 4.77) compared to over five years, daily cocaine injection in the last six months (AHR: 2.47; 95% CI: 1.51, 4.05) compared to less than daily, and sharing intravenous needles in the last six months (AHR: 2.56; 95% CI: 1.47, 4.49) compared to not sharing.
This study contributes to the limited body of research addressing HCV infection among Aboriginal people in Canada. The HCV incidence rate among Cedar Project participants who were new initiates of injection drug use underscores an urgent need for HCV and injection prevention and safety strategies aimed at supporting young people surviving injection drug use and sex work in both cities. Young people must be afforded the opportunity to provide leadership and input in the development of prevention programming.
PMCID: PMC3490797  PMID: 22877418
9.  Recent epidemiologic trends of diabetes mellitus among status Aboriginal adults 
Little is known about longitudinal trends in diabetes mellitus among Aboriginal people in Canada. We compared the incidence and prevalence of diabetes, and its impact on mortality, among status Aboriginal adults and adults in the general population between 1995 and 2007.
We examined de-identified data from Alberta Health and Wellness administrative databases for status Aboriginal people (First Nations and Inuit people with treaty status) and members of the general public aged 20 years and older who received a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus from Apr. 1, 1995, to Mar. 31, 2007. We calculated the incidence and prevalence of diabetes and mortality rate ratios by sex and ethnicity in 2007. We examined the average relative changes per year for longitudinal trends.
The average relative change per year in the prevalence of diabetes showed a smaller increase over time in the Aboriginal population than in the general population (2.39 v. 4.09, p < 0.001). A similar finding was observed for the incidence of diabetes. In the Aboriginal population, we found that the increase in the average relative change per year was greater among men than among women (3.13 v. 1.88 for prevalence, p < 0.001; 2.60 v. 0.02 for incidence, p = 0.001). Mortality among people with diabetes decreased over time to a similar extent in both populations. Among people without diabetes, mortality decreased in the general population but was unchanged in the Aboriginal population (−1.92 v. 0.11, p = 0.04). Overall, mortality was higher in the Aboriginal population than in the general population regardless of diabetes status.
The increases in the incidence and prevalence of diabetes over the study period appeared to be slower in the status Aboriginal population than in the general population in Alberta, although the overall rates were higher in the Aboriginal population. Mortality decreased among people with diabetes in both populations but was higher overall in the Aboriginal population regardless of diabetes status.
PMCID: PMC3168663  PMID: 21788417
10.  Illicit use of methadone and buprenorphine among adolescents and young adults in Sweden 
Illicit use of methadone and buprenorphine has been described as a growing problem in Sweden in recent years, and has been associated with an increased drug-related mortality. Critics claim that the substances have become popular among adolescents and that they function as a gateway to heroin use. The aim of this study is to investigate, firstly, the extent to which illicit use of methadone and buprenorphine occurs among adolescents and young adults in Sweden, and secondly, at what stage in a user’s drug career these substances tend to appear.
The study is based on surveys and structured interviews on drug use among various populations of young people, in addition to qualitative interviews with 86 informants who, in their professional capacity, encounter adolescents or young adults who are using illicit drugs.
Illicit use of methadone and buprenorphine is rare among young people in Sweden. According to high school surveys, less than 0.1% have tried these substances. Among young drug users in general, few have tried the substances, and there is nothing to indicate that they act as gateway drugs. Among adolescents and young adults with severe drug problems, however, the illicit use of methadone and buprenorphine is more common (54% in a compulsory care sample). These substances normally enter the drug career late, and few use them as their main drug of choice. Other prescription drugs, like benzodiazepines and tramadol, are used by adolescents to a far greater extent. Diversion and illicit use of methadone and buprenorphine is not seen as a serious problem by the professionals interviewed. A general view is that the substances are mainly used by people with a heroin or polydrug addiction, often for “self-medication” purposes. However, several informants express concern that methadone and buprenorphine may cause fatalities among young drug users without an opioid tolerance.
Illicit use of methadone and buprenorphine among young drug users is not a widespread problem in Sweden. Harm-reduction measures should target drug users with more severe problems, among whom illicit use of methadone and buprenorphine is more common and pose a medical risk. Illicit use of other prescription drugs, which are less controlled and more widely used by young people, is an important issue for further research.
PMCID: PMC3853648  PMID: 24139199
Methadone; Buprenorphine; Illicit use; Adolescents; Young adults; Drug career; Diversion
11.  Aboriginal users of Canadian quitlines: an exploratory analysis 
Tobacco Control  2007;16(Suppl 1):i60-i64.
To conduct an exploratory, comparative study of the utilisation and effectiveness of tobacco cessation quitlines among aboriginal and non‐aboriginal Canadian smokers.
Population based quitlines that provide free cessation information, advice and counselling to Canadian smokers.
First time quitline callers, age 18 years of age and over, who called the quitline between August 2001 and December 2005 and who completed the evaluation and provided data on their ethnic status (n = 7082).
Main measures
Demographic characteristics and tobacco behaviours of participants at intake and follow‐up; reasons for calling; actions taken toward quitting, and 6‐month follow‐up quit rates.
7% of evaluation participants in the time period reported aboriginal origins. Aboriginal participants were younger than non‐aboriginals but had similar smoking status and level of addiction at intake. Concern about future health and current health problems were the most common reasons aboriginal participants called. Six months after intake aboriginals and non‐aboriginals had taken similar actions with 57% making a 24‐hour quit attempt. Quit rates were higher for aboriginals than non‐aboriginals, particularly for men. The 6‐month prolonged abstinence rate for aboriginal men was 16.7% compared with 7.2% for aboriginal women and 9.4% and 8.3% for non‐aboriginal men and women, respectively.
This exploratory analysis showed that even without targeted promotion, aboriginal smokers do call Canadian quitlines, primarily for health related reasons. We also showed that the quitlines are effective at helping them to quit. As a population focused intervention, quitlines can reach a large proportion of smokers in a cost efficient manner. In aboriginal communities where smoking rates exceed 50% and multiple health risks and chronic diseases already exist, eliminating non‐ceremonial tobacco use must be a priority. Our results, although exploratory, suggest quitlines can be an effective addition to aboriginal tobacco cessation strategies.
PMCID: PMC2598513  PMID: 18048634
smoking cessation; quitlines; aboriginal
12.  Survivors of sexual abuse: clinical, lifestyle and reproductive consequences 
BACKGROUND: In recent years, an increase in the prevalence of sexual abuse of women has been reported in Canada and elsewhere. However, there are few empirical data on the extent of the problem in Canadian aboriginal populations. The authors investigated the presence of a reported history of sexual abuse and other health determinants in a sample of women attending a community health centre with a substantial aboriginal population. This allowed determination of whether reported sexual abuse and its associated demographic and health-related effects were different for aboriginal and non-aboriginal women. METHODS: A sample of 1696 women was selected from women attending a community health centre in a predominantly low-income inner-city area of Winnipeg for a cross-sectional survey designed to study the association between sexual behavior and cervical infections. The survey was conducted between November 1992 and March 1995 and involved a clinical examination, laboratory tests and an interviewer-administered questionnaire. A substudy was conducted among 1003 women who were asked 2 questions about sexual abuse. RESULTS: The overall response rate for the main study was 87%. Of the 1003 women who were asked the questions about sexual abuse, 843 (84.0%) responded. Among the respondents, 368 (43.6%) were aboriginal. Overall, 308 (36.5%) of the respondents reported having been sexually abused, 74.0% of the incidents having occurred during childhood. The prevalence was higher among aboriginal women than among non-aboriginal women (44.8% v. 30.1%, p < 0.001). Women who had been sexually abused were younger when they first had sexual intercourse, they had multiple partners, and they had a history of sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, non-aboriginal women who had been sexually abused were more likely than those who had not been abused to have been separated or divorced, unemployed and multiparous and to have used an intrauterine device rather than oral contraceptives. Aboriginal women who had been sexually abused were more likely than those who had not been abused to have been separated or divorced, unemployed and multiparous and to have used an intrauterine device rather than oral contraceptives. Aboriginal women who had been sexually abused were more likely than those who had not been abused to have had abnormal Papanicolaou smears. The proportion of smokers was higher among the abused women than among the non-abused women in both ethnic groups. INTERPRETATION: A history of sexual abuse was associated with other clinical, lifestyle and reproductive factors. This suggests that sexual abuse may be associated with subsequent health behaviors, beyond specific physical and psychosocial disorders. Aboriginal and non-aboriginal women who have suffered sexual abuse showed substantial differences in their subsequent health and health-related behaviours.
PMCID: PMC1229591  PMID: 9732710
13.  Methadone induction in primary care (ANRS-Methaville): a phase III randomized intervention trial 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:488.
In France, the rapid scale-up of buprenorphine, an opioid maintenance treatment (OMT), in primary care for drug users has led to an impressive reduction in HIV prevalence among injecting drug users (IDU) but has had no major effect on Hepatitis C incidence. To date, patients willing to start methadone can only do so in a methadone clinic (a medical centre for drug and alcohol dependence (CSAPA) or a hospital setting) and are referred to primary care physicians after dose stabilization. This study aims to assess the effectiveness of methadone in patients who initiated treatment in primary care compared with those who initiated it in a CSAPA, by measuring abstinence from street opioid use after one year of treatment.
The ANRS-Methaville study is a randomized multicenter non-inferiority control trial comparing methadone induction (lasting approximately 2 weeks) in primary care and in CSAPA. The model of care chosen for methadone induction in primary care was based on study-specific pre-training of all physicians, exclusion criteria and daily supervision of methadone during the initiation phase. Between January 2009 and January 2011, 10 sites each having one CSAPA and several primary care physicians, were identified to recruit patients to be randomized into two groups, one starting methadone in primary care (n = 147), the other in CSAPA (n = 48). The primary outcome of the study is the proportion of participants abstinent from street opioids after 1 year of treatment i.e. non-inferiority of primary care model in terms of the proportion of patients not using street opioids compared with the proportion observed in those starting methadone in a CSAPA.
The ANRS-Methaville study is the first in France to use an interventional trial to improve access to OMT for drug users. Once the non-inferiority results become available, the Ministry of Health and agency for the safety of health products may change the the New Drug Application (NDA) of methadone and make methadone induction by trained primary care physicians possible.
The trial is registered with the French Agency of Pharmaceutical Products (AFSSAPS) under the number 2008-A0277-48, the European Union Drug Regulating Authorities Clinical Trials.
Number Eudract 2008-001338-28, the Identifier: NCT00657397 and the International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number Register ISRCTN31125511.
PMCID: PMC3528472  PMID: 22741944
Methadone; Primary care; Initiation; Overdose; Opioid use; Opioid maintenance treatment
14.  High prevalence of HIV infection among homeless and street-involved Aboriginal youth in a Canadian setting 
Aboriginal people experience a disproportionate burden of HIV infection among the adult population in Canada; however, less is known regarding the prevalence and characteristics of HIV positivity among drug-using and street-involved Aboriginal youth. We examined HIV seroprevalence and risk factors among a cohort of 529 street-involved youth in Vancouver, Canada. At baseline, 15 (2.8%) were HIV positive, of whom 7 (46.7%) were Aboriginal. Aboriginal ethnicity was a significant correlate of HIV infection (odds ratio = 2.87, 95%CI: 1.02 – 8.09). Of the HIV positive participants, 2 (28.6%) Aboriginals and 6 (75.0%) non-Aboriginals reported injection drug use; furthermore, hepatitis C co-infection was significantly less common among Aboriginal participants (p = 0.041). These findings suggest that factors other than injection drug use may promote HIV transmission among street-involved Aboriginal youth, and provide further evidence that culturally appropriate and evidence-based interventions for HIV prevention among Aboriginal young people are urgently required.
PMCID: PMC2607257  PMID: 19019253
15.  Optimum Methadone Compliance Testing 
Executive Summary
The objective of this analysis was to determine the diagnostic utility of oral fluid testing collected with the Intercept oral fluid collection device.
Clinical Need: Target Population and Condition
Opioids (opiates or narcotics) are a class of drugs derived from the opium poppy plant that typically relieve pain and produce a euphoric feeling. Methadone is a long-acting synthetic opioid used to treat opioid dependence and chronic pain. It prevents symptoms of opioid withdrawal, reduces opioid cravings and blocks the euphoric effects of short-acting opioids such as heroin and morphine. Opioid dependence is associated with harms including an increased risk of exposure to Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Hepatitis C as well as other health, social and psychological crises. The goal of methadone treatment is harm reduction. Treatment with methadone for opioid dependence is often a long-term therapy. The Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons estimates that there are currently 250 physicians qualified to prescribe methadone, and 15,500 people in methadone maintenance programs across Ontario.
Drug testing is a clinical tool whose purpose is to provide objective meaningful information, which will reinforce positive behavioral changes in patients and guide further treatment needs. Such information includes knowledge of whether the patient is taking their methadone as prescribed and reducing or abstaining from using opioid and other drugs of abuse use. The results of drug testing can be used with behavior modification techniques (contingency management techniques) where positive reinforcements such as increased methadone take-home privileges, sustained employment or parole are granted for drug screens negative for opioid use, and negative reinforcement including loss of these privileges for drug screens positive for opioid used.
Body fluids including blood, oral fluid, often referred to as saliva, and urine may contain metabolites and the parent drug of both methadone and drugs of abuse and provide a means for drug testing. Compared with blood which has a widow of detection of several hours, urine has a wider window of detection, approximately 1 to 3 days, and is therefore considered more useful than blood for drug testing. Because of this, and the fact that obtaining a urine specimen is relatively easy, urine drug screening is considered the criterion measure (gold standard) for methadone maintenance monitoring. However, 2 main concerns exist with urine specimens: the possibility of sample tampering by the patient and the necessity for observed urine collection. Urine specimens may be tampered with in 3 ways: dilution, adulteration (contamination) with chemicals, and substitution (patient submits another persons urine specimen). To circumvent sample tampering the supervised collection of urine specimens is a common and recommended practice. However, it has been suggested that this practice may have negative effects including humiliation experienced by patient and staff, and may discourage patients from staying in treatment. Supervised urine specimen collection may also present an operational problem as staff must be available to provide same-sex supervision. Oral fluid testing has been proposed as a replacement for urine because it can be collected easily under direct supervision without infringement of privacy and reduces the likelihood of sample tampering. Generally, the results of oral fluid drug testing are similar to urine drug testing but there are some differences, such as lower concentrations of substances in oral fluid than urine, and some drugs remain detectable for longer periods of time in urine than oral fluid.
The Technology Being Reviewed
The Intercept Oral Specimen Collection Device (Ora-Sure Technologies, Bethlehem, PA) consists of an absorbent pad mounted on a plastic stick. The pad is coated with common salts. The absorbent pad is inserted into the mouth and placed between the cheek and gums for 3 minutes on average. The pad absorbs the oral fluid. After 3 minutes (range 2min-5 min) the collection device is removed from the mouth and the absorbent pad is placed in a small vial which contains 0.8mL of pH-balanced preservative, for transportation to a laboratory for analysis. It is recommended that the person undergoing oral fluid drug testing have nothing to eat or drink for a 10- minute period before the oral fluid specimen is collected. This will remove opportunity for adulteration. Likewise, it is recommended that the person be observed for the duration of the collection period to prevent adulteration of the specimen. An average of 0.4 mL of saliva can be collected. The specimen may be stored at 4C to 37C and tested within 21 days of collection (or within 6 weeks if frozen).
The oral fluid specimen must be analyzed in a laboratory setting. There is no point-of-care (POC) oral fluid test kit for drugs of abuse (other than for alcohol). In the laboratory the oral fluid is extracted from the vial after centrifugation and a screening test is completed to eliminate negative specimens. Similar to urinalysis, oral fluid specimens are analyzed first by enzyme immunoassay with positive specimens sent for confirmatory testing. Comparable cut-off values to urinalysis by enzyme immunoassay have been developed for oral fluids
Review Strategy
Research Question
What is the diagnostic utility of the Intercept oral specimen device?
Inclusion criteria:
Studies evaluating paired urine and oral fluid specimens from the same individual with the Intercept oral fluid collection device.
The population studied includes drug users.
Exclusion criteria:
Studies testing for marijuana (THC) only.
Sensitivity and Specificity of oral fluid testing compared to urinalysis for methadone (methadone metabolite), opiates, cocaine, benzodiazepines, and alcohol.
Quality of the Body of Evidence
The Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system was used to evaluate the overall quality of the body of evidence (defined as 1 or more studies) supporting the research questions explored in this systematic review. A description of the GRADE system is reported in Appendix 1.
Summary of Findings
A total of 854 potential citations were retrieved. After reviewing titles and abstracts, 2 met the inclusion and exclusion criteria. Two other relevant studies were found after corresponding with the author of the 2 studies retrieved from the literature search. Therefore a total of 4 published studies are included in this analysis. All 4 studies carried out by the same investigator meet the definition of Medical Advisory Secretariat level III (not a-randomized controlled trial with contemporaneous controls) study design. In each of the studies, paired urine and oral fluid specimens where obtained from drug users. Urine collection was not observed in the studies however, laboratory tests for pH and creatinine were used to determine the reliability of the specimen. Urine specimens thought to be diluted and unreliable were removed from the evaluation. Urinalysis was used as the criterion measurement for which to determine the sensitivity and specificity of oral fluid testing by the Intercept oral fluid device for opiates, benzodiazepines, cocaine and marijuana. Alcohol was not tested in any of the 4 studies. From these 4 studies, the following conclusions were drawn:
The evidence indicates that oral fluid testing with the Intercept oral fluid device has better specificity than sensitivity for opiates, benzodiazepines, cocaine and marijuana.
The sensitivity of oral fluids testing with the Intercept oral fluid device seems to be from best to worst: cocaine > benzodiazepines >opiates> marijuana.
The sensitivity and specificity for opiates of the Intercept oral fluid device ranges from 75 to 90% and 97- 100% respectively.
The consequences of opiate false-negatives by oral fluid testing with the Intercept oral fluid device need to be weighed against the disadvantages of urine testing, including invasion of privacy issues and adulteration and substitution of the urine specimen.
The window of detection is narrower for oral fluid drug testing than urinalysis and because of this oral fluid testing may best be applied in situations where there is suspected frequent drug use. When drug use is thought to be less frequent or remote, urinalysis may offer a wider (24-48 hours more than oral fluids) window of detection.
The narrow window of detection for oral fluid testing may mean more frequent testing is needed compared to urinalysis. This may increase the expense for drug testing in general.
POC oral fluid testing is not yet available and may limit the practical utility of this drug testing methodology. POC urinalysis by immunoassay is available.
The possible applications of oral fluid testing may include:
Because of its narrow window of detection compared to urinalysis oral fluid testing may best be used during periods of suspected frequent or recent drug use (within 24 hours of drug testing). This is not to say that oral fluid testing is superior to urinalysis during these time periods.
In situations where an observed urine specimen is difficult to obtain. This may include persons with “shy bladder syndrome” or with other urinary conditions limiting their ability to provide an observed urine specimen.
When the health of the patient would make urine testing unreliable (e,g., renal disease)
As an alternative drug testing method when urine specimen tampering practices are suspected to be affecting the reliability of the urinalysis test.
Possible limiting Factors to Diffusion of Oral Fluid Technology
No oral fluid POC test equivalent to onsite urine dips or POC analyzer reducing immediacy of results for patient care.
Currently, physicians get reimbursed directly for POC urinalysis. Oral fluid must be analyzed in a lab setting removing physician reimbursement, which is a source of program funding for many methadone clinics.
Small amount of oral fluid specimen obtained; repeat testing on same sample will be difficult.
Reliability of positive oral fluid methadone (parent drug) results may decrease because of possible contamination of oral cavity after ingestion of dose. Therefore high methadone levels may not be indicative of compliance with treatment. Oral fluid does not as yet test for methadone metabolite.
There currently is no licensed provincial laboratory that analyses oral fluid specimens.
2-ethylidene- 1,5-dimethyl-3,3-diphenylpyrrolidine
enzyme immunoassay
Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA),
Enzyme Multiplied Immunoassay Test (EMIT)
Gas chromatography
gas chromatography/mass spectrometry
High-performance liquid chromatography
Limit of Detection
Mass spectrometry
Methadone Maintenance Treatment
Oral fluid testing
Point of Care Testing
11-nor-delta-9-tetrhydrocannabinol-9-carboxylic acid
urine drug testing
PMCID: PMC3379523  PMID: 23074492
16.  Distinct Modes of Transmission of Tuberculosis in Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Populations in Taiwan 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112633.
Tuberculosis incidence among aborigines is significantly higher than for Han Chinese in Taiwan, but the extent to which Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) strain characteristics contribute to this difference is not well understood. MTB isolates from aborigines and Han Chinese living in eastern and southern Taiwan, the major regions of aborigines, were analyzed by spoligotyping and 24-loci MIRU-VNTR. In eastern Taiwan, 60% of aboriginal patients were ≤20 years old, significantly younger than the non-aboriginal patients there; aborigines were more likely to have clustered MTB isolates than Han Chinese (odds ratio (OR) = 5.98, p<0.0001). MTB lineages with high clustering were EAI (54.9%) among southern people, and Beijing (62.5%) and Haarlem (52.9%) among eastern aborigines. Resistance to first-line drugs and multidrug resistance (MDR) were significantly higher among eastern aborigines (≥15%) than in any other geographic and ethnic group (p<0.05); MDR was detected in 5 of 28 eastern aboriginal patients ≤20 years old. Among patients from the eastern region, clustered strains (p = 0.01) and aboriginal ethnicity (p = 0.04) were independent risk factors for MDR. The lifestyles of aborigines in eastern Taiwan may explain why the percentage of infected aborigines is much higher than for their Han Chinese counterparts. The significantly higher percentage of the MDR-MTB strains in the aboriginal population warrants close attention to control policy and vaccination strategy.
PMCID: PMC4231046  PMID: 25393403
17.  Worker compensation injuries among the Aboriginal population of British Columbia, Canada: incidence, annual trends, and ecological analysis of risk markers, 1987–2010 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:710.
Aboriginal people in British Columbia (BC) have higher injury incidence than the general population, but information is scarce regarding variability among injury categories, time periods, and geographic, demographic and socio-economic groups. Our project helps fill these gaps. This report focuses on workplace injuries.
We used BC’s universal health care insurance plan as a population registry, linked to worker compensation and vital statistics databases. We identified Aboriginal people by insurance premium group and birth and death record notations. We identified residents of specific Aboriginal communities by postal code. We calculated crude incidence rate and Standardized Relative Risk (SRR) of worker compensation injury, adjusted for age, gender and Health Service Delivery Area (HSDA), relative to the total population of BC. We assessed annual trend by regressing SRR as a linear function of year. We tested hypothesized associations of geographic, socio-economic, and employment-related characteristics of Aboriginal communities with community SRR of injury by multivariable linear regression.
During the period 1987–2010, the crude rate of worker compensation injury in BC was 146.6 per 10,000 person-years (95% confidence interval: 146.4 to 146.9 per 10,000). The Aboriginal rate was 115.6 per 10,000 (95% CI: 114.4 to 116.8 per 10,000) and SRR was 0.88 (95% CI: 0.87 to 0.89). Among those living on reserves SRR was 0.79 (95% CI: 0.78 to 0.80). HSDA SRRs were highly variable, within both total and Aboriginal populations. Aboriginal males under 35 and females under 40 years of age had lower SRRs, but older Aboriginal females had higher SRRs. SRRs are declining, but more slowly for the Aboriginal population. The Aboriginal population was initially at lower risk than the total population, but parity was reached in 2006. These community characteristics independently predicted injury risk: crowded housing, proportion of population who identified as Aboriginal, and interactions between employment rate and income, occupational risk, proportion of university-educated persons, and year.
As employment rates rise, so has risk of workplace injury among the Aboriginal population. We need culturally sensitive prevention programs, targeting regions and industries where Aboriginal workers are concentrated and demographic groups that are at higher risk.
PMCID: PMC4107977  PMID: 25012161
Occupational injuries (MeSH); Workers’ compensation (MeSH); Indians; North American (MeSH); Indigenous population (MeSH); “First Nations”; British Columbia (MeSH); Canada (MeSH); Epidemiology (MeSH); Population surveillance (MeSH); Socioeconomic factors (MeSH)
Because of growing concerns regarding the heightened vulnerabilities and risk of human immunodeficiency virus infection among youth who exchange sex for survival, we investigated individual risk patterns and structural barriers among young (≤24 years) female sex workers (FSWs) in Vancouver, Canada.
Between 2005 and 2008, a total of 255 street-based FSWs (≥14 years) were enrolled into a community-based prospective cohort, and were asked to participate in baseline and biannual questionnaires administered through interviews and human immunodeficiency virus screening. We used contingency table analysis to compare individual and structural barrier results obtained at baseline for younger (≤24 years) FSWs with those of the older (>25 years) FSWs. For longitudinal data, we used generalized estimating equations throughout the follow-up period to determine factors associated with being a young FSW in the past 6 months.
In comparison with older FSWs (n = 199), youth (n = 56) were more likely to spend fewer years engaging in sex exchange (median: 6.4 [interquartile range: 4.6–9.1] vs. 19.9 [interquartile range: 10.0–26.8]; p ≤ .001), belong to an aboriginal ancestry (59% vs. 44%; p = .052), and be homeless (68% vs. 36%; p ≤ .001). In the multivariate generalized estimating equations analysis, youth reported a significantly elevated proportional odds of being homeless (odds ratio [OR]: 1.26 [confidence interval {CI}: 1.08–1.48]), servicing clients in public places (OR: 1.28 [CI: 1.04–1.57]), injecting heroin on a daily basis (OR: 1.35 [CI: 1.06–1.74]), and a significantly reduced odds of accessing methadone maintenance therapy (OR: .76 [CI: .62–.93]).
This study demonstrates significant displacement of youth who engage in sex exchange to marginalized working and living spaces. The findings of this study bring to attention the critical need for targeted structural interventions including access to youth and gender-specific social housing, safe working spaces, reduction in the amount of harm caused to them, and addiction treatment services for youth engaged in survival sex work.
PMCID: PMC3392207  PMID: 21700154
adolescent; drug treatment; drug users; homeless youth; methadone maintenance therapy; prostitution; substance-related disorders; survival sex work; young adult
19.  Displacement of Canada's largest public illicit drug market in response to a police crackdown 
Law enforcement is often used in an effort to reduce the social, community and health-related harms of illicit drug use by injection drug users (IDUs). There are, however, few data on the benefits of such enforcement or on the potential harms. A large-scale police “crackdown” to control illicit drug use in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside provided us with an opportunity to evaluate the effect.
As part of our ongoing prospective cohort study of IDUs in Vancouver, we examined data collected from 244 IDUs in the 3 months before the police crackdown and from 142 IDUs in the 3 months after the start of the crackdown, on Apr. 7, 2003. All study subjects were active drug users. We also examined external data on needle exchanges and syringe disposal.
The 2 groups of IDUs were statistically similar: they were mainly young (mean age 39 years) and male (63%), and they had injected illicit drugs for 13 years on average. Ethnic background and the proportion homeless were also similar. There were no statistically significant reported differences (all p > 0.1) in the street price of heroin, cocaine or “crack” in the 2 periods. In the 3-month periods before and after the crackdown, respectively, the rates of daily heroin injection were 27.9% and 26.8%, daily cocaine injection 28.7% and 27.5%, and daily crack use 59.4% and 60.6% (all p > 0.1). The proportions of study subjects receiving methadone treatment, 41.0% and 44.4% (p = 0.516), did not differ. However, the proportions reporting a change in where drugs were used, 22.5% and 33.8% (p < 0.05), and the proportions reporting a change in the neighbourhood of use because of police presence, 18.1% and 26.8% (p < 0.05), increased significantly. Needle-exchange data confirmed that the community levels of drug use were unchanged. Disposal statistics demonstrated that the monthly average number of used syringes found on the streets outside the traditional area of drug use increased from 784 in the 3 months before Apr. 1 to 1253 in the subsequent 3 months (p = 0.002) and the monthly average number of used syringes found in public boxes for the safe disposal of syringes decreased from 865 to 502 (p = 0.018).
The effort to control illicit drug use did not alter the price of drugs or the frequency of use, nor did it encourage enrolment in methadone treatment programs. Several measures indicated displacement of injection drug use from the area of the crackdown into adjacent areas of the city, which has implications for both recruitment of new initiates into injection drug use and HIV prevention efforts.
PMCID: PMC400719  PMID: 15136548
20.  A Guide for Health Professionals Working with Aboriginal Peoples: Executive Summary 
to provide Canadian health professionals with a network of information and recommendations regarding Aboriginal health.
health professionals working with Aboriginal individuals and communities in the area of women’s health care.
improved health status of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
Appropriateness and accessibility of women’s health services for Aboriginal peoples.
Improved communication and clinical skills of health professionals in the area of Aboriginal health.
Improved quality of relationship between health professionals and Aboriginal individuals and communities.
Improved quality of relationship between health care professionals and Aboriginal individuals and communities.
recommendations are based on expert opinion and a review of the literature. Published references were identified by a Medline search of all review articles, randomized clinical control trials, meta-analyses, and practice guidelines from 1966 to February 1999, using the MeSH headings “Indians, North American or Eskimos” and “Health.”* Subsequently published articles were brought to the attention of the authors in the process of writing and reviewing the document. Ancillary and unpublished references were recommended by members of the SOGC Aboriginal Health Issues Committee and the panel of expert reviewers.
information collected was reviewed by the principal author. The social, cultural, political, and historic context of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, systemic barriers regarding the publication of information by Aboriginal authors, the diversity of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, and the need for a culturally appropriate and balanced presentation were carefully considered in addition to more traditional scientific evaluation. The majority of information collected consisted of descriptive health and social information and such evaluation tools as the evidence guidelines of the Canadian Task Force on the Periodic Health exam were not appropriate.
Benefits, costs, and harms
utilization of the information and recommendations by Canadian health professionals will enhance understanding, communication, and clinical skills in the area of Aboriginal health. The resulting enhancement of collaborative relationships between Aboriginal peoples and their women’s health providers may contribute to health services that are more appropriate, effective, efficient, and accessible for Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The educational process may require an initial investment of time from the health professional.
Recommendations were grouped according to four themes: sociocultural context, health concerns, cross-cultural understanding, and Aboriginal health resources. Health professionals are encouraged to learn the appropriate names, demographics, and traditional geographic territories and language groups of the various Aboriginal groups in Canada. In addition, sensitivity to the impact of colonization and current socioeconomic challenges to the health status of Aboriginal peoples is warranted. Health services for Aboriginal peoples should take place as close to home as possible. Governmental obligations and policies regarding determination are recognized. With respect to health concerns, holistic definitions of health, based on Aboriginal perspectives, are put forward. Aboriginal peoples continue to experience a disproportionate burden of health problems. Health professionals are encouraged to become familiar with several key areas of morbidity and mortality. Relationships between Aboriginal peoples and their care providers need to be based on a foundation of mutual respect. Gaps and barriers in the current health care system for Aboriginal peoples are identified. Health professionals are encouraged to work with Aboriginal individuals and communities to address these gaps and barriers. Aboriginal peoples require culturally appropriate health care, including treatment in their own languages when possible. This may require interpreters or Aboriginal health advocates. Health professionals are encouraged to recognize the importance of family and community roles, and to respect traditional medicines and healers. Health professionals can develop their sensitivities towards Aboriginal peoples by participating in workshops, making use of educational resources, and by spending time with Aboriginal peoples in their communities. Aboriginal communities and health professionals are encouraged to support community-based, community-directed health services and health research for Aboriginal peoples. In addition, the education of more Aboriginal health professionals is essential. The need for a preventative approach to health programming in Aboriginal communities is stressed.
recommendations were reviewed and revised by the SOGC Aboriginal Health Issues Committee, a panel of expert reviewers, and the SOGC Council. In addition, this document was also reviewed and supported by the Assembly of First Nations, Canadian Institute of Child Health, Canadian Paediatric Society, College of Family Physicians of Canada, Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, Federation of Medical Women of Canada, Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, Metis National Council, National Indian and Inuit Community Health Representatives Organization, and Pauktuutit Inuit Women’s Association.
Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada.
PMCID: PMC3653835  PMID: 23682204 CAMSID: cams2752
21.  The Cedar Project: risk factors for transition to injection drug use among young, urban Aboriginal people 
Studies suggest that Aboriginal people in Canada are over-represented among people using injection drugs. The factors associated with transitioning to the use of injection drugs among young Aboriginal people in Canada are not well understood.
The Cedar Project is a prospective cohort study (2003–2007) involving young Aboriginal people in Vancouver and Prince George, British Columbia, who use illicit drugs. Participants’ venous blood samples were tested for antibodies to HIV and the hepatitis C virus, and drug use was confirmed using saliva screens. The primary outcomes were use of injection drugs at baseline and tranisition to injection drug use in the six months before each follow-up interview.
Of 605 participants, 335 (55.4%) reported using injection drugs at baseline. Young people who used injection drugs tended to be older than those who did not, female and in a relationship. Participants who injected drugs were also more likely than those who did not to have been denied shelter because of their drug use, to have been incarcerated, to have a mental illness and to have been involved in sex work. Transition to injection drug use occurred among 39 (14.4%) participants, yielding a crude incidence rate of 19.8% and an incidence density of 11.5 participants per 100 person-years. In unadjusted analysis, transition to injection drug use was associated with being female (odds ratio [OR] 1.98, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.06–3.72), involved in sex work (OR 3.35, 95% CI 1.75–6.40), having a history of sexually transmitted infection (OR 2.01, 95% CI 1.07–3.78) and using drugs with sex-work clients (OR 2.51, 95% CI 1.19–5.32). In adjusted analysis, transition to injection drug use remained associated with involvement in sex work (adjusted OR 3.94, 95% CI 1.45–10.71).
The initiation rate for injection drug use of 11.5 participants per 100 person-years among participants in the Cedar Project is distressing. Young Aboriginal women in our study were twice as likely to inject drugs as men, and participants who injected drugs at baseline were more than twice as likely as those who did not to be involved in sex work.
PMCID: PMC3134722  PMID: 21670106
22.  Disparities in Healthcare Utilisation Rates for Aboriginal and Non-Aboriginal Albertan Residents, 1997–2006: A Population Database Study 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e48355.
It is widely recognised that significant discrepancies exist between the health of indigenous and non-indigenous populations. Whilst the reasons are incompletely defined, one potential cause is that indigenous communities do not access healthcare to the same extent. We investigated healthcare utilisation rates in the Canadian Aboriginal population to elucidate the contribution of this fundamental social determinant for health to such disparities.
Healthcare utilisation data over a nine-year period were analysed for a cohort of nearly two million individuals to determine the rates at which Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations utilised two specialties (Cardiology and Ophthalmology) in Alberta, Canada. Unadjusted and adjusted healthcare utilisation rates obtained by mixed linear and Poisson regressions, respectively, were compared amongst three population groups - federally registered Aboriginals, individuals receiving welfare, and other Albertans.
Healthcare utilisation rates for Aboriginals were substantially lower than those of non-Aboriginals and welfare recipients at each time point and subspecialty studied [e.g. During 2005/06, unadjusted Cardiology utilisation rates were 0.28% (Aboriginal, n = 97,080), 0.93% (non-Aboriginal, n = 1,720,041) and 1.37% (Welfare, n = 52,514), p = <0.001]. The age distribution of the Aboriginal population was markedly different [2.7%≥65 years of age, non-Aboriginal 10.7%], and comparable utilisation rates were obtained after adjustment for fiscal year and estimated life expectancy [Cardiology: Incidence Rate Ratio 0.66, Ophthalmology: IRR 0.85].
The analysis revealed that Aboriginal people utilised subspecialty healthcare at a consistently lower rate than either comparatively economically disadvantaged groups or the general population. Notably, the differences were relatively invariant between the major provincial centres and over a nine year period. Addressing the causes of these discrepancies is essential for reducing marked health disparities, and so improving the health of Aboriginal people.
PMCID: PMC3495946  PMID: 23152770
23.  Incidence of type 2 diabetes in Aboriginal Australians: an 11-year prospective cohort study 
BMC Public Health  2010;10:487.
Diabetes is an important contributor to the health inequity between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. This study aims to estimate incidence rates of diabetes and to assess its associations with impaired fasting glucose (IFG) and impaired glucose tolerance (IGT) among Aboriginal participants in a remote community.
Six hundred and eighty six (686) Aboriginal Australians aged 20 to 74 years free from diabetes at baseline were followed for a median of 11 years. During the follow-up period, new diabetes cases were identified through hospital records. Cox proportional hazards models were used to assess relationships of the incidence rates of diabetes with IFG, IGT and body mass index (BMI).
One hundred and twenty four (124) new diabetes cases were diagnosed during the follow up period. Incidence rates increased with increasing age, from 2.2 per 1000 person-years for those younger than 25 years to 39.9 per 1000 person-years for those 45-54 years. By age of 60 years, cumulative incidence rates were 49% for Aboriginal men and 70% for Aboriginal women. The rate ratio for developing diabetes in the presence of either IFG or IGT at baseline was 2.2 (95% CI: 1.5, 3.3), adjusting for age, sex and BMI. Rate ratios for developing diabetes were 2.2 (95% CI: 1.4, 3.5) for people who were overweight and 4.7 (95% CI: 3.0, 7.4) for people who were obese at baseline, with adjustment of age, sex and the presence of IFG/IGT.
Diabetes incidence rates are high in Aboriginal people. The lifetime risk of developing diabetes among Aboriginal men is one in two, and among Aboriginal women is two in three. Baseline IFG, IGT and obesity are important predictors of diabetes.
PMCID: PMC2931471  PMID: 20712905
24.  Methadone treatment protects against HIV infection: two decades of experience in the Bronx, New York City. 
Public Health Reports  1998;113(Suppl 1):107-115.
OBJECTIVE: We undertook a study of the role of methadone maintenance in protecting injecting drug users (IDUs) from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection from the earliest days of the HIV epidemic in New York City to the present. The historical context of the epidemic in the Bronx is discussed. METHODS: For close to two decades, we have been tracking changes in injecting drug use and HIV infection levels in a Bronx cohort study of IDUs. An initial sample of 622 IDUs was recruited from a methadone treatment program in 1985, with historical data going back to 1978. Behavioral interviews and HIV testing were performed and methadone treatment program records (urine toxicology and methadone dose history) were reviewed. We examined both prevalent and incident HIV infections. The sample included African Americans (24.3%), Latinos (50.3%), and white non-Latinos (24.4%). The average methadone dose was 64 milligrams (mg) per day with an average time in treatment of five and a half years. RESULTS: We found a very low rate of incident infection of 1.7 per 100 person-years observation since 1986. Because of this low rate of infection, we were unable to determine the association between methadone treatment factors and HIV seroincidence. We found that our prevalence data on the 622 IDUs enrolled from 1985 to 1988 yielded strong findings on the role of methadone maintenance in a period when most infections occurred in this population. HIV seroprevalence was 42.9%. Logistic regression analysis revealed associations of methadone dose > or = 80 mg (adjusted odds ratio = 3.07/yr, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.23-7.68) and last year entered methadone treatment (adjusted odds ratio = 1.22/yr, 95% CI: 1.06-1.41) to HIV infection, independent of year of last cocaine injection, needle sharing in shooting galleries, number of IDU sex partners, low income, and African American of Latino ethnicity. CONCLUSIONS: Properly dosed, long-term methadone treatment was found to be a central protective factor in preventing HIV infection from the earliest days of the epidemic in New York City. It is crucial to have high quality drug treatment programs in place before an epidemic draws our attention to the inadequacies through excess and unnecessary morbidity and mortality.
PMCID: PMC1307733  PMID: 9722816
25.  Aboriginal status is a prognostic factor for mortality among antiretroviral naïve HIV-positive individuals first initiating HAART 
Although the impact of Aboriginal status on HIV incidence, HIV disease progression, and access to treatment has been investigated previously, little is known about the relationship between Aboriginal ethnicity and outcomes associated with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). We undertook the present analysis to determine if Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal persons respond differently to HAART by measuring HIV plasma viral load response, CD4 cell response and time to all-cause mortality.
A population-based analysis of a cohort of antiretroviral therapy naïve HIV-positive Aboriginal men and women 18 years or older in British Columbia, Canada. Participants were antiretroviral therapy naïve, initiated triple combination therapy between August 1, 1996 and September 30, 1999. Participants had to complete a baseline questionnaire as well as have at least two follow-up CD4 and HIV plasma viral load measures. The primary endpoints were CD4 and HIV plasma viral load response and all cause mortality. Cox proportional hazards models were used to determine the association between Aboriginal status and CD4 cell response, HIV plasma viral load response and all-cause mortality while controlling for several confounder variables.
A total of 622 participants met the study criteria. Aboriginal status was significantly associated with no AIDS diagnosis at baseline (p = 0.0296), having protease inhibitor in the first therapy (p = 0.0209), lower baseline HIV plasma viral load (p < 0.001), less experienced HIV physicians (P = 0.0133), history of IDU (p < 0.001), not completing high school (p = 0.0046), and an income of less than $10,000 per year (p = 0.0115). Cox proportional hazards models controlling for clinical characteristics found that Aboriginal status had an increased hazard of mortality (HR = 3.12, 95% CI: 1.77–5.48) but did not with HIV plasma viral load response (HR = 1.15, 95% CI: 0.89–1.48) or CD4 cell response (HR = 0.95, 95% CI: 0.73–1.23).
Our study demonstrates that HIV-infected Aboriginal persons accessing HAART had similar HIV treatment response as non-Aboriginal persons but have a shorter survival. This study highlights the need for continued research on medical interventions and behavioural changes among HIV-infected Aboriginal and other marginalized populations.
PMCID: PMC1538994  PMID: 16723028

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