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1.  Intra-Urban Mobility and its Potential Impact on the Spread of Blood-Borne Infections among Drug Injectors in Tijuana, Mexico 
Substance use & misuse  2011;47(3):244-253.
We explored intra-urban mobility of Tijuana, Mexico injection drug users (IDUs). In 2005, 222 IDUs underwent behavioral surveys and infectious disease testing. Participants resided in 58 neighborhoods, but regularly injected in 30. From logistic regression, “mobile” IDUs (injecting ≥3 km from their residence) were more likely to cross the Mexico/U.S. border, share needles, and get arrested for carrying syringes - but less likely to identify hepatitis as an injection risk. Mobile participants lived in neighborhoods with less drug activity, treatment centers, or migrants, but higher marriage and home ownership rates. Mobile IDUs should be targeted for outreach and further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3979331  PMID: 22136446
Injection drug use; mobility; distance; GIS; neighborhood context
2.  HIV risk behaviors differ by workplace stability among Mexican female sex workers with truck driver clientele 
In a study of female sex workers (FSW) servicing truck driver clients in Mexican border cities, we evaluated differences in HIV/STI risk behaviors by workplace.
Cross-sectional study of FSW servicing truck drivers in Mexico: 100 from Nuevo Laredo (U.S. border); 100 from Ciudad Hidalgo (Guatemalan border). Main outcome was unstable workplace, defined as primary place of sex work in a public place (street, vehicle, gas station, etc.) vs. stable workplace (bar, brothel, and hotel). Logistic regression was used to identify correlates associated with trading sex at unstable workplaces in the last month.
Of the FSW surveyed, 18% reported an unstable workplace. The majority of FSW surveyed were young (<30), single, had <9th grade education, and had worked in the sex trade for a median of 4.9 years. After controlling for study site, FSW with unstable vs. stable workplaces were more likely to have a majority/all truck driver clientele, but were less likely to have visited a gynecologist in the last year (OR 0.1, 95%CI 0.03–0.4) or ever had an HIV test (OR 0.1, 95%CI 0.06–0.3), and there was a trend towards lower condom use self-efficacy scores (OR 0.8 per unit increase, 95%CI 0.7–1.0). On multivariate regression, unstable workplace was associated with having majority/all truck driver clientele, being surveyed in Nuevo Laredo, and decreased odds of ever having an HIV test.
Among Mexican FSW with truck driver clients, providing safe indoor spaces for sex work may help facilitate public health interventions that improve HIV/STI and reproductive health outcomes.
PMCID: PMC3979342  PMID: 24724056
female sex workers; HIV; sexually transmitted infection; risk behavior; work environment
3.  Social and behavioral characteristics of gharwalis who operate brothels in the Ganga-Jamuna area of Nagpur, India 
AIDS care  2012;25(4):438-442.
Nagpur is an industrial hub in Maharashtra, a state in Central India that has the second highest HIV prevalence in the country. Approximately 3000 brothel-based female sex workers (FSWs) are estimated to be working in Nagpur’s Ganga-Jamuna red light district. The extent to which brothel madams, known as gharwalis, support HIV/STI prevention for FSWs has not been examined. The present study sought to identify personal, social, and behavioral characteristics of gharwalis in Nagpur as well as enhance our understanding of the gharwali’s role in shaping the sexual practices of brothel-based FSWs. Thirty gharwalis participated in a survey that covered personal, social, behavioral, and environmental characteristics. Respondents ranged in age from 29 to 50 years (M = 38.9) and had worked as a gharwali for an average of 5.3 years; 80% had no formal education, 43% had never married and 30% were divorced or separated, and 93% earned money from their own sex work. Gharwalis managed an average of 4.2 FSWs (range 2 to 10). Overall, gharwalis reported positive attitudes toward condoms, promoted use of condoms by their FSWs with clients, taught FSWs how to use condoms, knew where to obtain condoms for free, and required HIV testing for their FSWs; however, levels of HIV prevention knowledge were low. Gharwalis also reported providing a range of support services to FSWs who lived in their brothels, including shelter, protection from drunk and aggressive clients and police, emotional support, caring and love, and health care. These data suggest the feasibility of involving gharwalis in brothel-based HIV prevention programs.
PMCID: PMC3502656  PMID: 22877415
4.  Situating HIV risk in the lives of formerly trafficked female sex workers on the Mexico-US border 
AIDS care  2012;25(4):459-465.
Due to stigma and the psychosocial repercussions of past trauma and abuse, survivors of sex trafficking may experience increased susceptibility to violence, revictimization, and various harmful health outcomes, including HIV infection. Given the paucity of research characterizing the experiences of formerly trafficked female sex workers (FSWs), we set out to describe and contextualize perceptions of HIV risk among women who have experienced past episodes of sex trafficking and who are currently engaged in sex work in Tijuana, Mexico. Based on semi-structured interviews and ethnographic fieldwork, we describe the following interrelated themes as influencing formerly trafficked FSWs' perceptions and experiences of HIV risk: economic vulnerability; susceptibility to violence; and psychological trauma. Our findings highlight the need for HIV prevention efforts to incorporate broader structural and social interventions aimed at reducing vulnerability to violence and human rights abuses among this population and improving their general economic, psychological, and social well-being.
PMCID: PMC3521850  PMID: 22963518
Sex trafficking; HIV; sex work; violence; Mexico border
5.  Syringe Confiscation as an HIV Risk Factor: The Public Health Implications of Arbitrary Policing in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico 
Female sex workers who inject drugs (FSW-IDUs) face elevated risk for HIV/STIs and constitute a key population for public health prevention. Through direct and indirect pathways including human rights violations, policing practices like syringe confiscation can compound FSW-IDU health risk and facilitate the spread of disease. We studied correlates of experiencing syringe confiscation among FSW-IDUs in northern Mexico, where formal policy allows for syringes to be available over the counter without a prescription, but police practices are often at odds with the law. FSW-IDUs reporting recent syringe sharing and unprotected sex with clients in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez were administered surveys and HIV/STI testing. Logistic regression was used to identify correlates of syringe confiscation. Among 624 respondent FSW-IDUs, prevalence of syringe confiscation in the last 6 months was 48 %. The following factors were positively associated with syringe confiscation: testing positive for HIV (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 2.54, 95 % confidence interval [CI] = 1.11–5.80), reporting sexual abuse by police (aOR = 12.76, 95 % CI = 6.58–24.72), engaging in groin injection (aOR = 1.84, 95 % CI = 1.15–2.93), injecting in public (aOR = 1.64; 95 % CI = 1.14–2.36), and obtaining syringes from pharmacies (aOR = 1.54; 95 % CI = 1.06–2.23). Higher education level was negatively associated with syringe confiscation (aOR = 0.92, 95 % CI = 0.87–0.98) as was frequent injection with clients within the last month (aOR = 0.64, 95 % CI = 0.44–0.94). This analysis adds to the body of evidence linking unauthorized law enforcement actions targeting high-risk groups with HIV and other adverse health outcomes. Using a public health lens to conceptualize abuse as a structural risk factor, we advocate for multi-prong prevention, systematic monitoring, and evidence-based intervention response to deleterious police practices.
PMCID: PMC3675719  PMID: 22806453
Injection drug use; Sex work; Police; HIV risk factors; Risk environment
6.  Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes and Sexual Violence Among Female Sex Workers Who Inject Drugs on the United States–Mexico Border 
Violence and victims  2013;28(3):496-512.
This study examines the prevalence of miscarriage/stillbirth among female sex workers who inject drugs (FSW-IDUs) and measures its associations with physical and sexual violence. Baseline data from 582 FSW-IDUs enrolled in an HIV intervention study in Tijuana and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico were used for current analyses. 30% of participants had experienced at least one miscarriage/stillbirth, 51% had experienced sexual violence, and 49% had experienced physical violence. History of miscarriage/stillbirth was associated with sexual violence (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] = 1.7, p = .02) but not physical violence. Additional reproductive risks associated with miscarriage/stillbirth included high numbers of male clients in the previous month (aOR = 1.1 per 30 clients, p = 0.04), history of abortion (aOR = 3.7, p < .001), and higher number of pregnancies (aOR = 1.4 per additional pregnancy, p < .001). Programs and research with this population should integrate reproductive health and consider gender-based violence.
PMCID: PMC3963834  PMID: 23862312
miscarriage; stillbirth; abuse; sex work; violence
7.  Description of the cascade of care and factors associated with attrition before and after initiating antiretroviral therapy of HIV infected children in a cohort study in India 
PeerJ  2014;2:e304.
In low- and middle-income countries, the attrition across the continuum of care of HIV infected children is not well known. The aim of this study was to investigate predictors of mortality and loss to follow up (LTFU) in HIV infected children from a cohort study in India and to describe the cascade of care from HIV diagnosis to virological suppression after antiretroviral therapy (ART) initiation. Multivariable analysis was performed using competing risk regression. The cumulative incidence of attrition due to mortality or LTFU after five year of follow-up was 16% from entry into care to ART initiation and 24.9% after ART initiation. Of all children diagnosed with HIV, it was estimated that 91.9% entered into care, 77.2% were retained until ART initiation, 58% stayed in care after ART initiation, and 43.4% achieved virological suppression on ART. Approximately half of the attrition occurred before ART initiation, and the other half after starting ART. Belonging to socially disadvantaged communities and living >90 min from the hospital were associated with a higher risk of attrition. Being >10 years old and having higher 12-month risk of AIDS (calculated using the absolute CD4 lymphocyte count and the age) were associated with an increased risk of mortality. These findings indicate that we should consider placing more emphasis on promoting research and implementing interventions to improve the engagement of HIV infected children in pre-ART care. The results of this study can be used by HIV programmes to design interventions aimed at reducing the attrition across the continuum of care of HIV infected children in India.
PMCID: PMC3961166
HIV; Pediatrics; India; Rural; Mortality; Lost to follow-up; Antiretroviral therapy highly active; Viral load
8.  HIV/STI risk among venue-based female sex workers across the globe: A look back and the way forward 
Current HIV/AIDS reports  2013;10(1):65-78.
Female sex workers (FSWs) continue to represent a high-risk population in need of targeted HIV prevention interventions. Targeting environmental risk factors should result in more sustainable behavior change than individual-level interventions alone. There are many types of FSWs who operate in and through a variety of micro- (e.g., brothels) and macro-level (e.g., being sex-trafficked) contexts. Efforts to characterize FSWs and inform HIV prevention programs have often relied on sex work typologies or categorizations of FSWs by venue or type. We conducted a systematic search and qualitatively reviewed 37 published studies on venue-based FSWs to examine the appropriateness of sex work typologies, and the extent to which this research has systematically examined characteristics of different risk environments. We extracted information on study characteristics like venue comparisons, HIV/STI prevalence, and sampling strategies. We found mixed results with regards to the reliability of typologies in predicting HIV/STI infection; relying solely on categorization of FSWs by venue or type did not predict seroprevalence in a consistent manner. Only 65% of the studies that allowed for venue comparisons on HIV/STI prevalence provided data on venue characteristics. The factors that were assessed were largely individual-level FSW factors (e.g. demographics, number of clients per day), rather than social and structural characteristics of the risk environment. We outline a strategy for future research on venue-based FSWs that ultimately aims to inform structural-level HIV interventions for FSWs.
PMCID: PMC3567216  PMID: 23160840
female sex work; HIV; risk environments; social factors; structural interventions; HIV prevention
9.  Evaluating the impact of Mexico’s drug policy reforms on people who inject drugs in Tijuana, B.C., Mexico, and San Diego, CA, United States: a binational mixed methods research agenda 
Policymakers and researchers seek answers to how liberalized drug policies affect people who inject drugs (PWID). In response to concerns about the failing “war on drugs,” Mexico recently implemented drug policy reforms that partially decriminalized possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use while promoting drug treatment. Recognizing important epidemiologic, policy, and socioeconomic differences between the United States—where possession of any psychoactive drugs without a prescription remains illegal—and Mexico—where possession of small quantities for personal use was partially decriminalized, we sought to assess changes over time in knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and infectious disease profiles among PWID in the adjacent border cities of San Diego, CA, USA, and Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico.
Based on extensive binational experience and collaboration, from 2012–2014 we initiated two parallel, prospective, mixed methods studies: Proyecto El Cuete IV in Tijuana (n = 785) and the STAHR II Study in San Diego (n = 575). Methods for sampling, recruitment, and data collection were designed to be compatible in both studies. All participants completed quantitative behavioral and geographic assessments and serological testing (HIV in both studies; hepatitis C virus and tuberculosis in STAHR II) at baseline and four semi-annual follow-up visits. Between follow-up assessment visits, subsets of participants completed qualitative interviews to explore contextual factors relating to study aims and other emergent phenomena. Planned analyses include descriptive and inferential statistics for quantitative data, content analysis and other mixed-methods approaches for qualitative data, and phylogenetic analysis of HIV-positive samples to understand cross-border transmission dynamics.
Investigators and research staff shared preliminary findings across studies to provide feedback on instruments and insights regarding local phenomena. As a result, recruitment and data collection procedures have been implemented successfully, demonstrating the importance of binational collaboration in evaluating the impact of structural-level drug policy reforms on the behaviors, health, and wellbeing of PWID across an international border.
Our prospective, mixed methods approach allows each study to be responsive to emerging phenomena within local contexts while regular collaboration promotes sharing insights across studies. The strengths and limitations of this approach may serve as a guide for other evaluations of harm reduction policies internationally.
PMCID: PMC3944401  PMID: 24520885
Injection drug use; HIV; Hepatitis C virus; M. tuberculosis; Drug policy reform; Structural interventions; Decriminalization; Mixed methods; International collaboration; Mexico
10.  Factors associated with pathways toward concurrent sex work and injection drug use among female sex workers who inject drugs in Northern Mexico 
Addiction (Abingdon, England)  2012;108(1):161-170.
To identify factors associated with time to initiation of (1) sex work prior to injecting drugs, (2) injection drug use, and (3) concurrent sex work and injection drug use (i.e., initiated at the same age) among female sex workers who currently inject drugs (FSW-IDU).
Parametric survival analysis of baseline data for time to initiation event.
Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez situated on the Mexico-U.S. border.
575 FSW-IDUs aged ≥18.
Interview-administered surveys assessing context of sex work and injection drug use initiation.
Nearly half (n=256) initiated sex work prior to beginning to inject, a third (n=163) initiated injection first, and a quarter (n=136) initiated both sex work and injection drug use concurrently. Low education and living in Ciudad Juarez accelerated time to sex work initiation. Being from a southern Mexican state and initiating drug use with inhalants delayed the time to first injection drug use. Having an intimate partner encourage entry into sex work and first injecting drugs to deal with depression accelerated time to initiating sex work and injection concurrently. Early physical abuse accelerated time to initiating sex work and injection, and substantially accelerated time to initiation of both behaviors concurrently.
Among female sex workers who currently inject drugs in two Mexican-US border cities, nearly half appear to initiate sex work prior to beginning to inject, nearly one third initiate injection drug use before beginning sex work, and one quarter initiate both behaviors concurrently. Predictors of these three trajectories differ, and this provides possible modifiable targets for prevention.
PMCID: PMC3481016  PMID: 22775475
Sex work; injection drug use; FSW-IDU; Mexico; initiation
11.  Limited Uptake of Hepatitis C Treatment among Injection Drug Users 
Journal of community health  2008;33(3):126-133.
We characterized HCV treatment knowledge, experience and barriers in a cohort of community-based injection drug users (IDUs) in Baltimore, MD. In 2005, a questionnaire on HCV treatment knowledge, experience and barriers was administered to HCV-infected IDUs. Self-reported treatment was confirmed from medical records. Of 597 participants, 71% were male, 95% African-American, 31% HIV co-infected and 94% were infected with HCV genotype 1; 70% were aware that treatment was available, but only 22% understood that HCV could be cured. Of 418 who had heard of treatment, 86 (21%) reported an evaluation by a provider that included a discussion of treatment of whom 30 refused treatment, 20 deferred and 36 reported initiating treatment (6% overall). The most common reasons for refusal were related to treatment-related perceptions and a low perceived need of treatment. Compared to those who had discussed treatment with their provider, those who had not were more likely to be injecting drugs, less likely to have health insurance, and less knowledgeable about treatment. Low HCV treatment effectiveness was observed in this IDU population. Comprehensive integrated care strategies that incorporate education, case-management and peer support are needed to improve care and treatment of HCV-infected IDUs.
PMCID: PMC3800027  PMID: 18165889
Hepatitis C virus; Injection drug use; Antiviral therapy; Health care access
12.  The Social and Environmental Context of Cross-border Drug Use in Mexico: Findings from a Mixed Methods Study of Young IDUs Living in San Diego, CA 
We report the results of qualitative (n=19) and quantitative (n=545) interviews with young injection drug users (IDUs) in San Diego, California, USA about their experiences using drugs in Tijuana, Mexico, and associated risks for HIV infection. Young IDUs who have ever traveled to Mexico (n=365) used a variety of injection (54%) and non-injection (30%) drugs there, and appear to be heavier users than those who have never traveled to Mexico. Sociocultural themes influencing drug use in Mexico included: interactions amongst the purpose of travel, drug preference, and route of administration; familiarity with the border region; evolving relationships with the US and Mexican drug markets; and the experience of crossing the US/Mexico border. Interventions for IDUs in border regions need to be sensitive to the ethnicity, familiarity with the border region, and life history of participants, as well as differences in national policies that could influence drug use and risk for HIV on both sides of the border.
PMCID: PMC3531810  PMID: 23216441
US/Mexico border; cross border drug use; injection drug use; HIV; hepatitis C virus; mixed methods
13.  Factors associated with experiences of stigma in a sample of HIV-positive, methamphetamine-using men who have sex with men 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2012;125(1-2):154-159.
While methamphetamine users report high rates of internalized or self-stigma, few studies have examined experiences of stigma (i.e., stigmatization by others) and its correlates.
This study identified correlates of stigma experiences in a sample of 438 HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM) who were enrolled in a sexual risk reduction intervention in San Diego, CA.
Approximately 96% of the sample reported experiences of stigma related to their use of methamphetamine. In multiple regression analysis, experiences of stigma were associated with binge use of methamphetamine, injection drug use, increased anger symptoms, reduced emotional support, and lifetime treatment for methamphetamine use.
These findings suggest that experiences of stigma are common among methamphetamine users and that interventions to address this type of stigma and its correlates may offer social, psychological, and health benefits to HIV-positive methamphetamine-using MSM.
PMCID: PMC3419298  PMID: 22572209
Stigma experiences; Methamphetamine; Men who have sex with men; HIV
14.  Sex Workers Perspectives on Strategies to Reduce Sexual Exploitation and HIV Risk: A Qualitative Study in Tijuana, Mexico 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72982.
Globally, female sex workers are a population at greatly elevated risk of HIV infection, and the reasons for and context of sex industry involvement have key implications for HIV risk and prevention. Evidence suggests that experiences of sexual exploitation (i.e., forced/coerced sex exchange) contribute to health-related harms. However, public health interventions that address HIV vulnerability and sexual exploitation are lacking. Therefore, the objective of this study was to elicit recommendations for interventions to prevent sexual exploitation and reduce HIV risk from current female sex workers with a history of sexual exploitation or youth sex work. From 2010–2011, we conducted in-depth interviews with sex workers (n = 31) in Tijuana, Mexico who reported having previously experienced sexual exploitation or youth sex work. Participants recommended that interventions aim to (1) reduce susceptibility to sexual exploitation by providing social support and peer-based education; (2) mitigate harms by improving access to HIV prevention resources and psychological support, and reducing gender-based violence; and (3) provide opportunities to exit the sex industry via vocational supports and improved access to effective drug treatment. Structural interventions incorporating these strategies are recommended to reduce susceptibility to sexual exploitation and enhance capacities to prevent HIV infection among marginalized women and girls in Mexico and across international settings.
PMCID: PMC3758274  PMID: 24023661
15.  The temporal relationship between drug supply indicators: an audit of international government surveillance systems 
BMJ Open  2013;3(9):e003077.
Illegal drug use continues to be a major threat to community health and safety. We used international drug surveillance databases to assess the relationship between multiple long-term estimates of illegal drug price and purity.
We systematically searched for longitudinal measures of illegal drug supply indicators to assess the long-term impact of enforcement-based supply reduction interventions.
Data from identified illegal drug surveillance systems were analysed using an a priori defined protocol in which we sought to present annual estimates beginning in 1990. Data were then subjected to trend analyses.
Main outcome measures
Data were obtained from government surveillance systems assessing price, purity and/or seizure quantities of illegal drugs; systems with at least 10 years of longitudinal data assessing price, purity/potency or seizures were included.
We identified seven regional/international metasurveillance systems with longitudinal measures of price or purity/potency that met eligibility criteria. In the USA, the average inflation-adjusted and purity-adjusted prices of heroin, cocaine and cannabis decreased by 81%, 80% and 86%, respectively, between 1990 and 2007, whereas average purity increased by 60%, 11% and 161%, respectively. Similar trends were observed in Europe, where during the same period the average inflation-adjusted price of opiates and cocaine decreased by 74% and 51%, respectively. In Australia, the average inflation-adjusted price of cocaine decreased 14%, while the inflation-adjusted price of heroin and cannabis both decreased 49% between 2000 and 2010. During this time, seizures of these drugs in major production regions and major domestic markets generally increased.
With few exceptions and despite increasing investments in enforcement-based supply reduction efforts aimed at disrupting global drug supply, illegal drug prices have generally decreased while drug purity has generally increased since 1990. These findings suggest that expanding efforts at controlling the global illegal drug market through law enforcement are failing.
PMCID: PMC3787412  PMID: 24080093
16.  Identifying the HIV Transmission Bridge: Which Men Are Having Unsafe Sex with Female Sex Workers and with Their Own Wives or Steady Partners? 
To gain insights into bridging behaviors and their correlates among male clients of female sex workers (FSWs).
Men aged ≥18 years who recently paid or traded for sex with FSWs were recruited in Tijuana in 2008–2009. Participants underwent interviews and testing for HIV, chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea. Logistic regression compared “bridgers” (clients who had unprotected sex with FSWs and with a wife or steady partner) with men who did not.
Of 383 men, 134 (35%) had a steady partner. Half (n = 70) of those had unprotected sex with both FSWs and the steady partner. Prevalence of any STI or HIV was 16.5% among bridgers and 2.3% among non-bridgers. Compared to other clients, bridgers were more likely to use drugs during sex with FSWs (81.4% versus 46.9%, p < 0.0001), had higher sensation-seeking (p < 0.0001) and misogyny scores (p = 0.05), and were more likely to offer FSWs extra money for unprotected sex (34.4% versus 1.6%, p < 0.0001). Factors independently associated with bridging were: using drugs during sex with FSWs (adjusted odds ratio (AOR): 3.4, p = 0.007), sensation-seeking (AOR: 4.3 per unit increase, p = 0.05), and offering FSWs more money for unprotected sex (AOR: 24.5, p = 0.003).
Sensation-seeking clients who use drugs during sex and coerce FSWs into unprotected sex may be less responsive to standard risk reduction interventions. Interventions are needed that target clients rather than rely on FSWs to change behaviors that may not be under their control.
PMCID: PMC3392412  PMID: 22481603
male clients; bridging behavior; female sex workers; HIV transmission; prevention; Mexico
17.  Digital Social Media, Youth, and Nonmedical Use of Prescription Drugs: The Need for Reform 
The tragic death of 18-year-old Ryan Haight highlighted the ethical, public health, and youth patient safety concerns posed by illicit online nonmedical use of prescription drugs (NUPM) sourcing, leading to a federal law in an effort to address this concern. Yet despite the tragedy and resulting law, the NUPM epidemic in the United States has continued to escalate and represents a dangerous and growing trend among youth and adolescents. A critical point of access associated with youth NUPM is the Internet. Internet use among this vulnerable patient group is ubiquitous and includes new, emerging, and rapidly developing technologies—particularly social media networking (eg, Facebook and Twitter). These unregulated technologies may pose a potential risk for enabling youth NUPM behavior. In order to address limitations of current regulations and promote online safety, we advocate for legislative reform to specifically address NUPM promotion via social media and other new online platforms. Using more comprehensive and modernized federal legislation that anticipates future online developments is critical in substantively addressing youth NUPM behavior occurring through the Internet.
PMCID: PMC3742396  PMID: 23892156
non-medical use of prescription medications (NUPM); eHealth; Internet; social media; youth and adolescents; drug abuse; substance abuse
18.  Non-fatal overdose and subsequent drug treatment among injection drug users 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2005;83(2):104-110.
Overdose is a leading cause of death among illicit drug users. 924 injection drug users (IDUs) in Baltimore, Maryland, were interviewed to characterize overdose events and determine the circumstances under which they lead to drug treatment. Overall, 366 (39.7%) reported at least one non-fatal drug overdose. Most (96.2%) used heroin on the day of their last overdose and almost half (42.6%) used heroin and alcohol but few (4.1%) used tranquilizers or benzodiazepines. Five percent were in drug treatment when the overdose occurred and 7.1% had been incarcerated two weeks prior. One in four IDUs (26.2%) sought drug treatment within 30 days after their last overdose of whom 75% enrolled. Speaking with someone about drug treatment after the overdose was associated with treatment seeking (AOR 5.22; 95% CI: 3.12, 8.71). Family members were the most commonly cited source of treatment information (53.7%) but only those who spoke with spouses, crisis counselors and hospital staff were more likely to seek treatment. Not being ready for treatment (69.6%) and not viewing drug use as a problem (30.7%) were the most common reasons for not seeking treatment and being placed on a waiting list was the most common reason for not subsequently enrolling in treatment (66.7%). Of the IDUs treated by emergency medical technicians, emergency room staff, or hospital staff, only 17.3%, 26.2% and 43.2% reported getting drug treatment information from those sources, respectively. Interventions that provide drug treatment information and enhance motivation for treatment in the medical setting and policies that reduce barriers to treatment entry among motivated drug users are recommended.
PMCID: PMC3711523  PMID: 16310322
19.  Venue-level correlates of female sex worker registration status: A multilevel analysis of bars in Tijuana, Mexico 
Global public health  2013;8(4):405-416.
In Tijuana, Mexico, sex work is regulated by the municipal government, through registration cards issued to female sex workers (FSWs) for an annual fee. Registration has been associated with decreased drug use and increase condom use and HIV testing. Previously, it was demonstrated that FSWs operating in bars were more likely than street-based FSWs to be registered. This implies that certain venues may be more accessible to local authorities for the enforcement of this type of programme. Taking a novel multilevel approach, we examined whether venue characteristics of bars reflecting greater organised management and visibility affect registration status of FSWs. In an analysis of venue-level characteristics, predictors of being registered were availability of free condoms at work and distance to the main sex strip; however, these were not independently associated after inclusion of FSWs’ income, illicit drug use and history of HIV testing. Our findings suggest that sex work regulations may inadvertently exclude venues in which the more vulnerable and less visible FSWs, such as injection drug users and those with limited financial resources, are situated. Efforts to revise or reconsider sex work regulations to ensure that they best promote FSWs’ health, human and labour rights are recommended.
PMCID: PMC3704167  PMID: 23534477
sex work; venue; multilevel analysis; sex work regulation; registration
20.  Needle Exchange and the HIV Epidemic in Vancouver: Lessons Learned from 15 years of research 
During the mid-1990s, Vancouver experienced a well characterized HIV outbreak among injection drug users (IDU) and many questioned how this could occur in the presence of a high volume needle exchange program (NEP). Specific concerns were fuelled by early research demonstrating that frequent needle exchange program attendees were more likely to be HIV positive than those who attended the NEP less frequently. Since then, some have misinterpreted this finding as evidence that NEPs are ineffective or potentially harmful. In light of continuing questions about the Vancouver HIV epidemic, we review 15 years of peer-reviewed research on Vancouver’s NEP to describe what has been learned through this work. Our review demonstrates that: 1) NEP attendance is not causally associated with HIV infection, 2) frequent attendees of Vancouver’s NEP have higher risk profiles which explain their increased risk of HIV seroconversion, and 3) a number of policy concerns, as well as the high prevalence of cocaine injecting contributed to the failure of the NEP to prevent the outbreak. Additionally, we highlight several improvements to Vancouver’s NEP that contributed to declines in syringe sharing and HIV incidence. Vancouver’s experience provides a number of important lessons regarding NEP. Keys to success include refocusing the NEP away from an emphasis on public order objectives by separating distribution and collection functions, removing syringe distribution limits and decentralizing and diversifying NEP services. Additionally, our review highlights the importance of context when implementing NEPs, as well as ongoing evaluation to identify factors that constrain or improve access to sterile syringes.
PMCID: PMC3392518  PMID: 22579215
needle exchange programs; injection drug use; HIV/AIDS; policing; Vancouver
21.  The Effect of Intimate Partner Violence on Receptive Syringe Sharing Among Young Female Injection Drug Users: An Analysis of Mediation Effects 
AIDS and behavior  2007;13(2):217-224.
This study sought to explore the relationship between intimate partner violence (IPV) and receptive syringe sharing (RSS) among young female injection drug users (IDUs) and to examine mediating variables. Cross-sectional behavioral assessments were completed by 797 female IDUs in five U.S. cities who reported having at least one main sexual partner in the past three months. Linear regression was used to estimate direct and mediated effects. The product of coefficients method was used to statistically evaluate mediation. Respondents were predominantly white (70%) and mean age was 23 years. Sixty percent reported RSS in the past three months and 33% reported IPV in the past year. The association between IPV and RSS was independently mediated by self-esteem and depression, but not by self-efficacy for safer drug injection. Findings suggest that interventions focused on improving victimized women’s self-esteem and depression may help mitigate some of the negative health effects of IPV.
PMCID: PMC3690571  PMID: 17876699
Injection drug use; Syringe sharing; Women; Intimate partner violence; HIV; HCV; Mediation; Self-esteem; Depression; Self-efficacy
22.  Negotiating Safety & Sexual Risk Reduction with Clients in Unsanctioned Quasi-Brothels: A Qualitative Study 
American journal of public health  2012;102(6):1154-1159.
To examine how unique, low-barrier housing programs for women that are functioning as unsanctioned quasi-brothels under special needs housing regulations in a Canadian urban setting influence risk negotiation with clients in sex work transactions.
We conducted 39 semi-structured qualitative interviews and 6 focus groups with women who live in low-barrier, supportive housing for marginalized sex workers with substance use issues. All interviews were transcribed verbatim and thematically analyzed.
Women's accounts revealed that unsanctioned quasi-brothels promoted increased control over negotiating sex transactions, including the capacity to refuse unwanted services, negotiate condom use and avoid violent perpetrators. Despite the lack of formal legal and policy support for brothels in Canada, the environmental-structural supports afforded by these unsanctioned, quasi-brothels, including surveillance cameras and support from staff or police in removing violent clients, were linked to improved police relations and facilitated the institution of informal peer-safety mechanisms.
This study draws attention to the potential role of brothels as venues for public health and violence prevention interventions and points to the critical importance of removing the socio-legal barriers preventing the formal implementation of such programs.
PMCID: PMC3484819  PMID: 22571708
sex work; violence; risk
23.  Time to act: a call for comprehensive responses to HIV in people who use drugs 
Lancet  2010;376(9740):551-563.
The published work on HIV in people who use drugs shows that the global burden of HIV infection in this group can be reduced. Concerted action by governments, multilateral organisations, health systems, and individuals could lead to enormous benefits for families, communities, and societies. We review the evidence and identify synergies between biomedical science, public health, and human rights. Cost-effective interventions, including needle and syringe exchange programmes, opioid substitution therapy, and expanded access to HIV treatment and care, are supported on public health and human rights grounds; however, only around 10% of people who use drugs worldwide are being reached, and far too many are imprisoned for minor offences or detained without trial. To change this situation will take commitment, advocacy, and political courage to advance the action agenda. Failure to do so will exacerbate the spread of HIV infection, undermine treatment programmes, and continue to expand prison populations with patients in need of care.
PMCID: PMC3682471  PMID: 20650515
24.  Reductions in HIV/STI Incidence and Sharing of Injection Equipment among Female Sex Workers Who Inject Drugs: Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e65812.
We evaluated brief combination interventions to simultaneously reduce sexual and injection risks among female sex workers who inject drugs (FSW-IDUs) in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico during 2008–2010, when harm reduction coverage was expanding rapidly in Tijuana, but less so in Juarez.
FSW-IDUs ≥18 years reporting sharing injection equipment and unprotected sex with clients within the last month participated in a randomized factorial trial comparing four brief, single-session conditions combining either an interactive or didactic version of a sexual risk intervention to promote safer sex in the context of drug use, and an injection risk intervention to reduce sharing of needles/injection paraphernalia. Women underwent quarterly interviews and testing for HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, Chlamydia and Trichomonas, blinding interviewers and assessors to assignment. Poisson regression with robust variance estimation and repeated measures ordinal logistic regression examined effects on combined HIV/STI incidence and receptive needle sharing frequency.
Of 584 initially HIV-negative FSW-IDUs, retention was ≥90%. After 12 months, HIV/STI incidence decreased >50% in the interactive vs. didactic sex intervention (Tijuana:AdjRR:0.38,95% CI:0.16–0.89; Juarez: AdjRR:0.44,95% CI:0.19–0.99). In Juarez, women receiving interactive vs. didactic injection risk interventions decreased receptive needle-sharing by 85% vs. 71%, respectively (p = 0.04); in Tijuana, receptive needle sharing declined by 95%, but was similar in active versus didactic groups. Tijuana women reported significant increases in access to syringes and condoms, but Juarez women did not.
After 12 months in both cities, the interactive sexual risk intervention significantly reduced HIV/STI incidence. Expanding free access to sterile syringes coupled with brief, didactic education on safer injection was necessary and sufficient for achieving robust, sustained injection risk reductions in Tijuana. In the absence of expanding syringe access in Juarez, the injection risk intervention achieved significant, albeit more modest reductions, suggesting that community-level interventions incorporating harm reduction are more powerful than individual-level interventions.
Trial Registration NCT00840658
PMCID: PMC3681783  PMID: 23785451
25.  Indicators of Methamphetamine Use and Abuse in San Diego County, California: 2001–2005† 
Journal of psychoactive drugs  2007;Suppl 4:319-325.
San Diego County, California, is a major distribution center for methamphetamine entering the U.S. from Mexico. All available indicators suggest that the use and abuse of methamphetamine increased between 2001 and 2005. Drug treatment admissions for primary methamphetamine use accounted for 49% of all drug treatment admissions in 2005, up from 37% in 2001, with trends showing smaller proportions of female and Hispanic users and a larger proportion of methamphetamine smokers (vs. inhalation or injection). Increases in prevalence of methamphetamine use were documented among arrestees as well; by 2005, 51% of female and 21% of juvenile arrestees tested positive for methamphetamine The proportion of emergency department visits involving illicit drugs in which methamphetamine was reported increased from 32% in 2004 to 40% in 2005, although this change was not statistically significant, and methamphetamine-related deaths increased 48% between 2001 and 2005. Data from non-federal drug seizures in San Diego County documented an increase from 21 % of all drug items analyzed in 2001 to 32% in 2005 In summary, methamphetamine remains the drug of utmost concern in San Diego. The availability of multiple data sources is imperative for constructing valid characterizations of trends in methamphetamine use and abuse and its affect on health.
PMCID: PMC3679886  PMID: 18284098
drug treatment; epidemiology; indicators; methamphetamine; San Diego

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