We examined the association of individual demographic and behavioral attributes, partnership (dyad) and social network characteristics with unprotected sex in the heterosexual dyads of IDUs in St Petersburg, Russia. Of the individual-level characteristics female gender and younger age; and of the dyad-level characteristics sharing injecting equipment, social exposure to the sex partner (“hanging out with” or seeing each other daily), and both partners self-reporting being HIV infected were associated with unprotected sex. Although self-reported HIV discordant couples were less likely to engage in unprotected sex, it was reported in over half of self-reported HIV discordant relationships. This study highlights the intertwining of sexual risk and injecting risk, and the importance of sero-sorting based on perceived HIV status among IDU sexual partnerships in St Petersburg, Russia. A combination of social network and dyad interventions may be appropriate for this population of IDUs, especially for IDUs who are both injecting and sex partners, supported by free and confidential rapid HIV testing and counseling services to provide a comprehensive response to the wide-spread HIV epidemic among IDUs in St Petersburg.
Injecting drug users; Risk networks; Sexual risk; HIV infection risk; Dyad analysis; Russia
In this study, we investigated how individual attributes, dyad characteristics and social network characteristics may influence engaging in receptive syringe sharing, distributive syringe sharing and sharing cookers in injecting partnerships of IDUs in St Petersburg, Russia. We found that all three levels were associated with injecting equipment sharing, and that dyad characteristics were modified by characteristics of the social network. Self-reported HIV discordance and male gender concordance played a role in the risk of equipment sharing. Dyad interventions may not be sufficient to reduce injecting risk in IDU partnerships, but a combination of dyad and network interventions that target both IDU partnerships and the entire IDU population may be more appropriate to address injecting risk among IDUs.
Injecting drug users; Risk networks; Injecting risk; Dyad analysis; Russia
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
IDU exposure remains a primary driver of the Russian HIV epidemic, and recent incidence data provide little evidence that this epidemic is slowing. While there are multiple important challenges that need to be further explored before starting vaccine trials, most importantly access to evidence-based drug treatment services for trial participants, the current context of high HIV incidence and low genetic diversity of HIV strains, suggests the need for intensified prevention strategies and supports the feasibility of mounting efficacy trials of HIV vaccines among IDUs in the Russian Federation.
HIV; Injection Drug use; St. Petersburg; Molecular Epidemiology; Vaccines
Growing evidence indicates that emotional distress such as depression may have the potential to increase the risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). This study investigated the association between depressive symptoms and unprotected sex among STI clinic patients in Russia.
We used pre-intervention data collected between 2009 and 2010 among 307 participants who were enrolled in a randomized intervention trial conducted in a STI clinic in St. Petersburg, Russia. The 10-item Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale was used to identify depressive symptoms and two indicators were used to measure unprotected sex. Logistic regression models were applied for the analysis and controlled for the following potential confounders: demographic characteristics, being a commercial sex worker, history of drug injection and alcohol misuse.
Of the participants, 20.2% were classified as having depressive symptoms. About 59.6% of the participants did not use a condom during the last sexual intercourse and 24.4% never used condoms in the past three months. Depressive symptoms were significantly associated with both indicators of unprotected sex in two different models: odds ratio (OR) = 2.36, 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.24–4.48 for unprotected sex in the last sexual intercourse; and OR = 2.71, 95% CI, 1.43–5.11 for unprotected sex in the past three months.
Depressive symptoms were common and were strongly associated with unprotected sex among study participants in St. Petersburg, Russia. Efforts to promote condom use should address lack of condom use due to depressive symptoms.
Condom; Depression; Depressive symptoms; Russia; Unprotected sex; STI clinic patients; alcohol misuse; drug injection; commercial sex work
We conducted a cross-sectional study to determine whether the time between two consecutive sexual partnerships (gap) is associated with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Russia. A self-administered questionnaire was administered to STI clinic patients in St. Petersburg and participant’s STI data at the time of enrollment in the study was collected from medical charts. The length of the gap between partnerships was divided into four categories: overlapping (0 or negative gap), short gaps (1–90 days), mid-length gaps (91–365 days), and long gaps (366 days or more). Among the 659 respondents, 22.6% had overlapping partnerships, and 13.7, 4.2, and 59.5% had short, mid-length and long gaps, respectively. Short gaps (OR 2.34; 95% CI 1.38–3.95), but not overlapping relationships, were independently associated with STIs when contrasted against long term gaps. HIV prevention programs for Russian STI clinic patients should therefore focus also on prolonging the gap between consecutive, monogamous sexual partnerships.
Gap between sexual partnerships; Consecutive sexual relationships; Serial monogamous relationships; Partner concurrency; STI; Russia
Gender differences in the relationship between alcohol use and depressive symptoms are inconsistent, and few studies have addressed this issue in Russia. Because this finding may have important implications for interventions to reduce alcohol misuse or alcohol related problems in Russia, we conducted a study to investigate whether the association between alcohol use and depressive symptoms differs by gender at high risk for HIV.
We used the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) and the 10-item Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale to measure alcohol use and depressive symptoms among 307 patients who attended a clinic for sexually transmitted infections in St. Petersburg, Russia. Logistic regression models were applied for the analysis.
The comparison of data between men and women revealed a significant quadratic term of alcohol use and significant interactions between alcohol use and gender on depressive symptoms. Men with an AUDIT score in the first and fourth quartiles were more likely to report depressive symptoms in comparison to men in the second quartile. Their odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) were 7.54 (2.00–28.51) and 5.06 (1.31–19.63), respectively. Among women, a linear trend was observed such that those who misused alcohol were three times more likely to have depressive symptoms than those who did not misuse alcohol (OR = 3.03, 95% CI, 1.05–8.80).
The association between alcohol use and depressive symptoms differed by gender. Additional research is needed to investigate this relationship in Russia. Strategies to reduce alcohol-related problems in Russia may need to consider these differences.
alcohol; depression; depressive symptoms; gender differences; Russia
This study investigates whether age at first alcoholic drink is associated with sexual risk behaviors among injection drug users (IDUs) and non-IDUs who are sexual partners of IDUs in St. Petersburg, Russia. A path analysis was used to test a model of age at first drink, age at sexual debut, age at first drug use, current substance use patterns and current sexual risk behaviors among 558 participants. Results revealed that age at first drink had an effect on multiple sex partners through age at sexual debut and injection drug use, but no effect on unprotected sex. Age at first drug use was not related to sexual risk behaviors. Investigation of age of drinking onset may provide useful information for programs to reduce sexual risk behaviors and injection drug use. Different paths leading to unprotected sex and multiple sexual partners call for different approaches to reduce sexual risk behaviors among this population.
Age at first alcoholic drink; HIV sexual risks; IDU; Russia; Age at first drug use; Sexual debut
Sexual concurrency is associated with higher prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) including HIV. However, most studies have focused only on the concurrency of the individual participant (individual concurrency) and not on concurrency of their sexual partners (partner concurrency). Furthermore, limited concurrency information is available in Russia where HIV epidemic is growing rapidly. We therefore examine the prevalence and correlates of individual and partner concurrency, and determine whether either type of concurrency is associated with diagnosed STDs among STD clinic attendees in St. Petersburg, Russia.
In total, 799 attendees were recruited into a cross-sectional study between 2006 and 2008. A questionnaire collected information on demographics, medical history, sexual behaviors, and up to 3 sexual partners during the preceding year.
The prevalence of individual and partner concurrency was 24.7% and 45.4%, respectively. Both were correlated with marital status, weekly alcohol consumption, age at first sex, and number of lifetime sexual partners. Partner concurrency was significantly associated with diagnosed STDs (odds ratio = 2.06; 95% confidence interval = 1.35–3.15). No significant association between individual concurrency and STDs was observed.
Partner concurrency, not individual concurrency, is independently associated with increased odds of having an STD in the studied population.
The detection of sound begins when energy derived from an acoustic stimulus deflects the hair bundles atop hair cells1. As hair bundles move, the viscous friction between stereocilia and the surrounding liquid poses a fundamental physical challenge to the ear’fs high sensitivity and sharp frequency selectivity. Part of the solution to this problem lies in the active process that uses energy for frequency-selective sound amplification2,3. Here we demonstrate that a complementary part of the solution involves the fluid-structure interaction between stereocilia and the liquid within the hair bundle. Using force measurement on a dynamically scaled model, finite-element analysis, analytical estimation of hydrodynamic forces, stochastic simulation, and high-resolution interferometric measurement of hair bundles, we characterize the origin and magnitude of the forces between individual stereocilia during small hair-bundle deflections. We find that the close apposition of stereocilia effectively immobilizes the liquid between them, which reduces the drag and suppresses the relative squeezing but not the sliding mode of stereociliary motion. The obliquely oriented tip links couple the mechanotransduction channels to this least dissipative coherent mode, whereas the elastic horizontal top connectors that stabilize the structure further reduce the drag. As measured from the distortion products associated with channel gating at physiological stimulation amplitudes of tens of nanometres, the balance of viscous and elastic forces in a hair bundle permits a relative mode of motion between adjacent stereocilia that encompasses only a fraction of a nanometre. A combination of high-resolution experiments and detailed numerical modelling of fluid-structure interactions reveals the physical principles behind the basic structural features of hair bundles and shows quantitatively how these organelles are adapted to the needs of sensitive mechanotransduction.
We investigated whether inebriation was associated with having non-main partners and unprotected sex with non-main partners and whether drinking motivations were associated with sexual risk behaviors among patients attending an STD clinic in St Petersburg, Russia. A cross-sectional behavior survey was applied to 362 participants between 2008 and 2009. Multivariate logistic regression was used for analysis. At-risk drinking per Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT-C) criteria (OR 2.5, 95% CI 1.4–4.4) was independently associated with having non-main sexual partners. Inebriation (OR 3.2, 95% CI 1.3–8.1) but not at-risk drinking or drinking prior to sex was associated with unprotected sex with non-main partners. Among drinkers, the consumption of alcohol to facilitate sexual encounters (OR 2.7, 95% CI 1.6–4.5) was associated with having non-main sexual partners. HIV prevention programs in Russia must address inebriation in addition to conventional patterns of problem drinking such as those measured by AUDIT-C and consider individuals’ motivations to drink that lead to sexual risk taking.
Sexual risk behaviors; STD clinic; Russia; Drinking motivation; Inebriation; AUDIT-C
Many women in Russia rely on abortion as a primary birth control method. Although refusal to use contraceptives, including condoms, may undermine public health efforts to decrease HIV sexual risk behaviors, few studies have investigated the risk factors associated with abortion among women at high risk for HIV. This study sought to identify the correlates of abortions and of lack of condom use among high risk STD clinic patients in St Petersburg Russia.
Cross-sectional analysis of data collected between 2009 and 2010 from women who had casual or multiple sexual partners in the previous three months was analyzed. Multivariate logistic regression assessed the independent correlates of abortion(s) and no condom use in the prior three months. Independent variables included socio-demographics, at risk drinking per alcohol use disorder identification test (AUDIT-C) criteria, having sex after drinking alcohol, having a sexual partner who injects illicit drugs, and parity.
Of 87 participants, 45% had an abortion in their lifetime and 26% did not use condoms in the prior three months. Abortion was independently associated with low income (OR, 3.33, 95%CI, 1.13-9.78) and at risk drinking (OR, 3.52, 95%CI, 1.24-10.05). Lack of condom use was independently associated with being more likely to have sex after drinking (OR, 3.37, 95%CI, 1.10-10.28) and parity (OR, 3.69, 95%CI, 1.25-10.89).
Programs to increase contraceptive use including condom use among women at high risk for STD/HIV in Russia are needed. Programs to reduce sexual HIV risk and abortion rates must address alcohol misuse and target women with limited income.
abortion; condom use; Russia; HIV risk; high risk women; alcohol misuse; AUDIT-C
Alcohol misuse has been linked to intimate partner violence (IPV). However, this association is not usually examined in Russia. Moreover, more investigation is required as to whether specific drinking contexts are also associated with IPV. The objectives of this study are: to investigate whether alcohol misuse is associated with IPV and to further examine whether specific drinking contexts among drinkers are associated with IPV.
A questionnaire was used to collect information on demographics, health status, alcohol use, and violence involving sexual partners among 440 participants who were recruited from an STI (sexually transmitted infection) clinic center in St. Petersburg, Russia for a cross-sectional study from 2008 to 2009. Multivariate logistic regression was used for analysis.
Overall, 47.0% participants were classified as misusing alcohol and 7.2% participants perpetrated IPV in the past three months. Participants with alcohol misuse were 3.28 times (OR: 3.28; 95% CI: 1.34-8.04) as likely as those without alcohol misuse to perpetrate IPV. Among participants who had consumed alcohol in the past three months, those who usually drank on the streets or in parks (OR: 5.62; 95% CI: 1.67-18.90) were more likely to perpetrate IPV.
Both alcohol misuse and certain drinking contexts (e.g., drinking on the streets or at parks) were associated with IPV. The association between drinking contexts and IPV needs further investigation, as do the underlying mechanisms for this association. IPV prevention initiatives might benefit from reducing alcohol misuse. Drinking contexts such as drinking on the streets or at parks as well as the factors related to the use of alcohol in these contexts may also need to be addressed.
The purpose of this analysis was to estimate human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevalence and testing patterns among injection drug users (IDUs) in St. Petersburg, Russia. HIV prevalence among 387 IDUs in the sample was 50%. Correlates of HIV-positive serostatus included unemployment, recent unsafe injections, and history/current sexually transmitted infection. Seventy-six percent had been HIV tested, but only 22% of those who did not report HIV-positive serostatus had been tested in the past 12 months and received their test result. Correlates of this measure included recent doctor visit and having been in prison or jail among men. Among the 193 HIV-infected participants, 36% were aware of their HIV-positive serostatus. HIV prevalence is high and continuing to increase in this population. Adequate coverage of HIV testing has not been achieved, resulting in poor knowledge of positive serostatus. Efforts are needed to better understand motivating and deterring factors for HIV testing in this setting.
Russia; Injection drug users; HIV prevalence; HIV testing; HIV serostatus; Knowledge
The frequency sensitivity of auditory hair cells in the inner ear varies with their longitudinal position in the sensory epithelium. Among the factors that determine the differential cellular response to sound is the resonance of a hair cell's transmembrane electrical potential, whose frequency correlates with the kinetic properties of the high-conductance Ca2+-activated K+ (BK) channels encoded by a Slo (kcnma1) gene. It has been proposed that the inclusion of specific alternative axons in the Slo transcripts along the cochlea underlies the gradient of BK-channel kinetics. By analyzing the complete sequences of chicken Slo gene (cSlo) cDNAs from the chicken's cochlea, we show that most transcripts lack alternative exons. Transcripts with more than one alternative exon constitute only 10% of the total. Although the fraction of transcripts containing alternative exons increases from the cochlear base to the apex, the combination of alternative exons is not regulated. There is also a clear increase in the expression of BK transcripts with long carboxyl termini toward the apex. When long and short BK transcripts are expressed in HEK-293 cells, the kinetics of single-channel currents differ only slightly, but they are substantially slowed when the channels are coexpressed with the auxiliary β subunit that occurs more widely at the apex. These results argue that the tonotopic gradient is not established by the selective inclusion of highly specific cSlo exons. Instead, a gradient in the expression of β subunits slows BK channels toward the low-frequency apex of the cochlea.
To date, the great majority of Russian HIV infections have been diagnosed among IDUs and concerns about the potential for a sexual transmission of HIV beyond the IDU population have increased. This study investigated differences in the prevalence of sexual risk behaviors between IDUs and non-IDUs in St. Petersburg, Russia and assessed associations between substance use patterns and sexual risks within and between those two groups.
Cross-sectional survey data and biological test results from 331 IDUs and 65 non-IDUs who have IDU sex partners were analyzed. Multivariate regression was employed to calculate measures of associations.
IDUs were less likely than non-IDUs to report multiple sexual partners and unprotected sex with casual partners. The quantity, frequency and intensity of alcohol use did not differ between IDUs and non-IDUs, but non-IDUs were more likely to engage in alcohol use categorized as risky per the alcohol use disorders identification test (AUDIT-C). Risky sexual practices were independently associated with monthly methamphetamine injection among IDUs and with risky alcohol use among non-IDUs. Having sex when high on alcohol or drugs was associated with unprotected sex only among IDUs.
Greater prevalence of sexual risk among non-IDUs who have IDU sex partners compared to IDUs suggests the potential for sexual transmission of HIV from the high-prevalence IDU population into the general population. HIV prevention programs among IDUs in St. Petersburg owe special attention to risky alcohol use among non-IDUs who have IDU sex partners and the propensity of IDUs to have sex when high on alcohol or drugs and forgo condoms.
To understand the epidemiology and transmission patterns of hepatitis C virus (HCV), the predominant blood borne-pathogen infecting drug injectors (IDUs), in a part of the former Soviet Union.
Cross-sectional respondent driven sample of IDUs.
St. Petersburg, RF
387 IDUs were recruited in late 2005 and throughout 2006.
Participants were surveyed to collect demographic, medical, and both general and dyad specific drug injection and sexual behaviors. A blood sample was collected to detect antibodies to hepatitis C and to amplify viral RNA for molecular analysis. The molecular data, including genotypes, were analyzed spatially and linkage patterns were compared to the social linkages obtained by respondent driven sampling (RDS) for chains of respondents and among the injection dyads.
HCV infection was all but ubiquitous: 94.6% of IDUs were HCV-seropositive. Among the 208 viral sequences amplified, genotype 3a predominated (n=119, 56.9%) followed by 1b (n=61, 29.2%), and 1a (n=25, 11.9%). There was no significant clustering of genotypes spatially. Neither genotypes nor closely related sequences were clustered within RDS chains. Analysis of HCV sequences from dyads failed to find associations of genotype or sequence homology within pairs.
Genotyping reveals that there have been at least five unique introductions of HCV genotypes into the IDU community in St. Petersburg. Analysis of prevalent infections does not appear to correlate with the social networks of IDUs, suggesting that simple approaches to link these networks to prevalent infections, rather than incident transmission, will not prove meaningful. On a more positive note, the majority of IDUs are infected with 3a genotype that is associated with sustained virologic response to antiviral therapy.
HCV; genotyping; Injection drug users; Respondent Driven Sampling; Russia
Background: Russia has one of the world’s fastest growing HIV epidemics and it has been largely concentrated among injection drug users (IDU). St Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city, is one of the country’s regions that has been most affected by the HIV epidemic. To monitor the current epidemic situation, we sought to estimate recent HIV incidence among IDU in St Petersburg. Methods: In a cross-sectional study of 691 IDU recruited during 2005–08, HIV incidence was estimated by two methods: a retrospective cohort analysis and BED capture enzyme immunoassay (EIA) results. Socio-demographic and behavioural correlates of incident infections and spatial patterns were examined. Results: In the retrospective cohort analysis, the incidence rate was estimated to be 14.1/100 person-years [95% confidence interval (CI) 10.7–17.6]. Using results of BED EIA and two correction formulas for known misclassification, incidence estimates were 23.9 (95% CI 17.8–30.1) and 25.5 (95% CI 18.9–32.0) per 100 person-years. Independent correlates of being recently infected included current unemployment (P = 0.004) and not having injected drugs in the past 30 days (P = 0.03). HIV incident cases were detected in all but one district in the city, with focal areas of transmission observed to be expanding. Conclusions: High HIV incidence among IDU in St Petersburg attests to continued growth of the epidemic. The need for expansion of HIV prevention interventions targeted to vulnerable populations throughout the city is urgent. These results also suggest that the BED EIA may over-estimate incidence even after correction for low specificity.
human immunodeficiency virus; HIV; incidence; injection drug users; Russia
We examined the prevalence of HIV disclosure to sexual partners by HIV-positive drug injectors (IDUs) in St. Petersburg, Russia and compared the magnitude and direction of associations of condom use with awareness of one’s HIV infection and disclosure to partners. Among 157 HIV-infected participants, awareness of infection at time of last intercourse was associated with condom use with partners perceived to be HIV-negative (aOR 6.68, 95% CI 1.60–27.88). Among the 70 participants aware of their infection prior to enrolment, disclosure to potentially uninfected sexual partners was independently and negatively associated with condom use (aOR 0.13, 95% CI 0.02–0.66). Disclosure was independently associated with having injected ≥9 years (aOR 6.04, 95% CI 1.53–23.77) and partnership with another IDU (aOR 3.61, 95% CI 1.44–9.06) or HIV-seropositive (aOR 45.12, 95% CI 2.79–730.46). Scaling up HIV testing services and interventions that increase the likelihood of individuals receiving their test results is recommended.
HIV disclosure; HIV testing; Condom use; Injection drug use; Russia
The epidemic of HIV in St. Petersburg, which is currently concentrated among injection drug users (IDUs), may be penetrating into the general population. Non-IDUs who have IDU sex partners (SP) could be potential bridges in an expanding epidemic. To investigate potential bridges, we accrued a convenience sample of 288 non-IDUs whose HIV diagnosis was attributed to sexual transmission and we determined the proportion that had IDUs among their SP. Having IDU SP ever (lifetime) and IDU SP in the last year were the key variables for the analysis of potential bridges in this study. The interaction of gender and age was found to be a significant predictor of having lifetime IDU SP (p = 0.006, χ2 test) and IDU SP in the last year (p = 0.05, χ2 test): females aged 26 and younger were more likely to have both lifetime IDU SP and IDU SP in the last year. Among the group of young females, 46% reported ever having an IDU SP. Out of young women reporting ever having an IDU SP, 85% also reported at least one lifetime non-IDU SP. Among the females aged 26 or younger, a lower level of education (odds ratio [OR] = 2.7, confidence interval [CI] = 1.1–6.7), being born in St. Petersburg (OR = 2.9, CI = 1.2–7.2), and alcohol use in the last 30 days (OR = 3.5, CI = 1.3–9.6) were significant correlates for ever having had an IDU SP. Urgent efforts are necessary to expand HIV prevention to target the potential bridging population to prevent further transmission.
Russia; Heterosexual; HIV transmission; General population; Bridging
The HIV epidemic that began in Russia in the mid-1990s has been concentrated mostly among drug users (DUs). Recent evidence of increasing HIV cases among non-DUs attributed to sexual behavior raises potential concern about a more generalized epidemic. The purpose of this analysis is to examine the potential for HIV transmission from DUs to their non-DU sex partners. Analyses are conducted using data collected during 2005–2008 in St. Petersburg, Russia. A total of 631 DUs were recruited into the sample with an HIV prevalence of 45%. A majority (84%) of DUs reported being sexually active in the past 6 months, and the DU status of their sex partners was reported as follows: 54% DU, 40% non-DU, and 6% unknown DU status. In 41% of partnerships with an HIV-negative or unknown status partner not known to be DU (potential bridging partnerships), the last reported intercourse was unprotected. Female DUs with potential bridging partnerships were more likely than male DUs to be younger and report homelessness and to have multiple or new sex partners. Many non-DU sex partners of DUs enrolled in the study reported new sex partners in the past 6 months (66%), unprotected intercourse at last sex (60%), and multiple sex partners in the past 6 months (48%). HIV prevalence in this group was 15% (eight out of 53). The high prevalence of HIV among DUs, their sexual contact with non-DUs, and the high-risk sexual behaviors of this potential bridging population together indicate the real potential for an increasingly generalized epidemic. The degree to which there will be further transmission from non-DU sex partners of DUs who exhibit high levels of sex risk behaviors to other non-DU sex partners deserves further study.
HIV; Russia; Drug users; Sex behavior
While overdose is a common cause of mortality among opioid injectors worldwide, little information exists on opioid overdoses or how context may influence overdose risk in Russia. This study sought to uncover social and structural aspects contributing to fatal overdose risk in St. Petersburg and assess prevention intervention feasibility.
Twenty-one key informant interviews were conducted with drug users, treatment providers, toxicologists, police, and ambulance staff. Thematic coding of interview content was conducted to elucidate elements of the overdose risk environment.
Several factors within St. Petersburg’s environment were identified as shaping illicit drug users’ risk behaviors and contributing to conditions of suboptimal response to overdose in the community. Most drug users live and experience overdoses at home, where family and home environment may mediate or moderate risk behaviors. The overdose risk environment is also worsened by inefficient emergency response infrastructure, insufficient cardiopulmonary or naloxone training resources, and the preponderance of abstinence-based treatment approaches to the exclusion of other treatment modalities. However, attitudes of drug users and law enforcement officials generally support overdose prevention intervention feasibility. Modifiable aspects of the risk environment suggest community-based and structural interventions, including overdose response training for drug users and professionals that encompasses naloxone distribution to the users and equipping more ambulances with naloxone.
Local social and structural elements influence risk environments for overdose. Interventions at the community and structural levels to prevent and respond to opioid overdoses are needed for and integral to reducing overdose mortality in St. Petersburg.
naloxone; overdose; risk environment; emergency medical services; Russia; structural intervention
The HIV/AIDS epidemic in St Petersburg, as in much of Russia, is concentrated among injection drug users (IDU) in whom prevalence reached 30% in 2003. Understanding the dynamics of the epidemic is important in developing appropriate responses in the resource-constrained context of Russian cities such as St Petersburg.
IDU were contacted and screened to create a seronegative cohort for prevention and vaccine studies. At screening, individuals provided sociodemographic, drug use, and injection and sex-related risk behavior data. Seronegative individuals who enrolled in the cohort were followed for one year and tested for HIV semiannually. Residential addresses were entered into a geographical information system programme and analysed for spatial clustering using Moran’s I and nearest-neighbor analysis.
We mapped 788 of the 900 study participants to discrete locations within St Petersburg; 236 (29.9%) were HIV seropositive at baseline. Although there was no clustering of the study population as a whole, HIV-infected individuals were tightly clustered and prevalence co-clustered with high frequency of heroin injection, receptive syringe sharing, being younger than 24 years, and living with parents. These clusters were restricted to 5% of populated areas of the city. We mapped 18 of 20 incident cases detected among the cohort, and more than half were located within or adjacent to the clusters.
Spatial analysis identified linkages between disease prevalence and risky injection behaviors that were not evident using traditional epidemiological analysis. The analysis also identified where resources might be allocated geographically for maximum impact in slowing the HIV epidemic among IDU.
geographical information systems; harm reduction; HIV/AIDS; injection drug use
The HIV epidemic in Russia has been driven by the unsafe injection of drugs, predominantly heroin and the ephedrine derived psychostimulants. Understanding differences in HIV risk behaviors among injectors associated with different substances has important implications for prevention programs.
We examined behaviors associated with HIV risk among 900 IDUs who inject heroin, psychostimulants, or multiple substances in 2002. Study participants completed screening questionnaires that provided data on sociodemographics, drug use, place of residence and injection- and sex-related HIV risk behaviors. HIV testing was performed and prevalence was modeled using general estimating equation (GEE) analysis. Individuals were clustered by neighborhood and disaggregated into three drug use categories: Heroin Only Users, Stimulant Only Users, and Mixed Drug Users.
Among Heroin Only Users, younger age, front/backloading of syringes, sharing cotton and cookers were all significant predictors of HIV infection. In contrast, sharing needles and rinse water were significant among the Stimulant Only Users. The Mixed Drug Use group was similar to the Heroin Only Users with age, front/back loading, and sharing cotton significantly associated with HIV infection. These differences became apparent only when neighborhood of residence was included in models run using GEE.
The type of drug injected was associated with distinct behavioral risks. Risks specific to Stimulant Only Users appeared related to direct syringe sharing. The risks specific to the other two groups are common to the process of sharing drugs in preparation to injecting. Across the board, IDUs could profit from prevention education that emphasizes both access to clean syringes and preparing and apportioning drug with these clean syringes. However, attention to neighborhood differences might improve the intervention impact for injectors who favor different drugs.
Opioid overdose in Russia is a problem that has grown more severe as heroin abuse expanded over the past decade, yet few studies have explored it in detail. In order to gain a clearer understanding of the situation, 60 drug users, both in and out of drug treatment in St. Petersburg, were interviewed concerning their overdose experience and knowledge about overdose recognition and prevention.
Using a semi-structured interview, we sought to identify and describe local attitudes, knowledge and experience (both self-sustained and witnessed) of opioid overdose. Bi-variate and multiple logistic regressions were performed in order to identify the relationship between overdose experience and sociodemographic factors, risk behaviors, and clinical psychiatric measures.
We found that having experienced or witnessed an opioid overdose within the previous year was common, overdose knowledge was generally high, but nearly half the participants reported low self-efficacy for effectively intervening in an overdose situation. In bivariate analyses, self-reported family problems (i.e., perceived problematic family interactions) were positively associated with both experiencing (t56 = 2.49; p < 0.05) and with witnessing a greater number of overdoses in the previous year (rhos = 0.31; p < 0.05). Having previously overdosed [Adjusted Risk Ratio (ARR) 1.7, 95% Confidence Interval (CI) 1.1–2.6] and higher SCL-90-R somatization scores (ARR 1.2, 95% CI 0.96 – 1.5) were independently associated in multivariable analyses with self-sustained overdose experience in the past year. Greater perceived likelihood of experiencing a future overdose and concern about medical problems were independently associated with witnessing a higher number of overdoses within the previous year. Over two thirds of the participants expressed interest in receiving training in overdose prevention and response.
Opioid overdose experience is very common among drug users in St. Petersburg, Russia, and interest in receiving training for overdose recognition and prevention was high. Future research should target the development of effective overdose recognition and prevention interventions, especially ones that include naloxone distribution and involve drug users' families.