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1.  Crystal methamphetamine initiation among street-involved youth 
Although many settings have recently documented a substantial increase in the use of methamphetamine-type stimulants, recent reviews have underscored the dearth of prospective studies that have examined risk factors associated with the initiation of crystal methamphetamine use.
Our objectives were to examine rates and risk factors for the initiation of crystal methamphetamine use in a cohort of street-involved youth.
Street-involved youth in Vancouver, Canada, were enrolled in a prospective cohort known as the At-Risk Youth Study (ARYS). A total of 205 crystal methamphetamine-naïve participants were assessed semi-annually and Cox regression analyses were used to identify factors independently associated with the initiation of crystal methamphetamine use.
Among 205 youth prospectively followed from 2005 to 2012, the incidence density of crystal methamphetamine initiation was 12.2 per 100 person years. In Cox regression analyses, initiation of crystal methamphetamine use was independently associated with previous crack cocaine use (adjusted relative hazard [ARH] = 2.24 [95% CI: 1.20–4.20]) and recent drug dealing (ARH = 1.98 [95% CI: 1.05–3.71]). Those initiating methamphetamine were also more likely to report a recent nonfatal overdose (ARH = 3.63 [95% CI: 1.65–7.98]) and to be male (ARH = 2.12 [95% CI: 1.06–4.25]).
We identified high rates of crystal methamphetamine initiation among this population. Males those involved in the drug trade, and those who used crack cocaine were more likely to initiate crystal methamphetamine use. Evidence-based strategies to prevent and treat crystal methamphetamine use are urgently needed.
PMCID: PMC3934747  PMID: 24191637
Crystal methamphetamine; social harm; youth
Given the link between employment and mortality in the general population, we sought to assess this relationship among HIV-positive people who use illicit drugs in Vancouver, Canada.
Data were derived from a prospective cohort study of HIV seropositive people who use illicit drugs (n=666) during the period of May 1996–June 2010 linked to comprehensive clinical data in Vancouver, Canada, a setting where HIV care is delivered without charge. We estimated the relationship between employment and mortality using proportional hazards survival analysis, adjusting for relevant behavioural, clinical, social and socioeconomic factors.
In a multivariate survival model, a time-updated measure of full time, temporary or self-employment compared with no employment was significantly associated with a lower risk of death (adjusted HR=0.44, 95% CI 0.22 to 0.91). Results were robust to adjustment for relevant confounders, including age, injection and non-injection drug use, plasma viral load and baseline CD4 T-cell count.
These findings suggest that employment may be an important dimension of mortality risk of HIV-seropositive illicit drug users. The potentially health-promoting impacts of labour market involvement warrant further exploration given the widespread barriers to employment and persistently elevated levels of preventable mortality among this highly marginalised population.
PMCID: PMC4060796  PMID: 24153247
3.  The Effect of History of Injection Drug Use and Alcoholism on HIV Disease Progression 
AIDS care  2013;26(1):10.1080/09540121.2013.804900.
The effectiveness of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in preventing disease progression can be negatively influenced by the high prevalence of substance use among patients. Here, we quantify the effect of history of injection drug use and alcoholism on virologic and immunologic response to HAART. Clinical and survey data, collected at the start of HAART and at the interview date, were based on the study Longitudinal Investigations into Supportive and Ancillary Health Services (LISA) in British Columbia, Canada. Substance use was a three-level categorical variable, combining information on history of alcohol dependence and of injection drug use, defined as: no history of alcohol and injection drug use, history of alcohol or injection drug use and history of both alcohol and injection drug use. Virologic response (pVL) was defined by ≥2 log10 copy/mL drop in viral load. Immunologic response was defined as an increase in CD4 cell count percent of ≥100%. We used cumulative logit modeling for ordinal responses to address our objective. Of the 537 HIV-infected patients, 112 (21%) were characterized as having history of both alcohol and injection drug use, 173 (32%) were non adherent (<95%), 196 (36%) had CD4+/pVL+ (Best) response, 180 (34%) a CD4+/pVL− or a CD4−/pVL+ (Incomplete) response, and 161 (30%) a CD4−/pVL− (Worst) response. For individuals with history of both alcohol and injection drug use, the estimated probability of of Best, Incomplete and Worse responses, respectively. Screening and detection of substance dependence will identify individuals at high-risk for non-adherence and ideally prevent their HIV disease from progressing to advanced stages where HIV disease can become difficult to manage.
PMCID: PMC3795995  PMID: 23767757
Alcohol; Injection drug use; Adherence; HAART; HIV; Disease progression
4.  Risk Factors for Progression to Regular Injection Drug Use among Street-Involved Youth in a Canadian Setting 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2013;133(2):10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2013.07.008.
Street-involved youth are at high risk for experimenting with injection drug use; however, little attention has been given to identifying the factors that predict progression to on-going injecting.
Logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with progression to injecting weekly on a regular basis among a Canadian cohort of street-involved youth.
Among our sample of 405 youth who had initiated injecting at baseline or during study observation, the median age was 22 years (interquartile range [IQR] = 21 – 24), and 72% (293) reported becoming a regular injector at some point after their first injection experience. Of these, the majority (n=186, 63%) reported doing so within a month of initiating injection drug use. In multivariate analysis, the drug used at the first injection initiation event (opiates vs. cocaine vs. methamphetamine vs. other; all p > 0.05) was not associated with progression; however, younger age at first injection (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] =1.13), a history of childhood physical abuse (AOR =1.81), prior regular use of the drug first injected (AOR =1.77), and having a sexual partner present at the first injection event (AOR =2.65) independently predicted progression to regular injecting.
These data highlight how quickly youth progress to become regular injectors after experimentation. Findings indicate that addressing childhood trauma and interventions such as evidence-based youth focused addiction treatment that could prevent or delay regular non-injection drug use, may reduce progression to regular injection drug use among this population.
PMCID: PMC3818386  PMID: 23910434
injection drug use; injection initiation; street-involved youth; injection prevention; physical abuse
5.  Predictors of liver-related death among people who inject drugs in Vancouver, Canada: a 15-year prospective cohort study 
While HIV/AIDS remains an important cause of death among people who inject drugs (PWID), the potential mortality burden attributable to hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among this population is of increasing concern. Therefore, we sought to identify trends in and predictors of liver-related mortality among PWID.
Data were derived from prospective cohorts of PWID in Vancouver, Canada, between 1996 and 2011. Cohort data were linked to the provincial vital statistics database to ascertain mortality rates and causes of death. Multivariate Cox proportional hazards regression was used to examine the relationship between HCV infection and time to liver-related death. A sub-analysis examined the effect of HIV/HCV co-infection.
Results and discussion
In total, 2,279 PWID participated in this study, with 1,921 (84.3%) having seroconverted to anti-HCV prior to baseline assessments and 124 (5.4%) during follow-up. The liver-related mortality rate was 2.1 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.5–3.0) deaths per 1,000 person-years and was stable over time. In multivariate analyses, HCV seropositivity was not significantly associated with liver-related mortality (adjusted relative hazard [ARH]: 0.45; 95% CI: 0.15–1.37), but HIV seropositivity was (ARH: 2.67; 95% CI: 1.27–5.63). In sub-analysis, HIV/HCV co-infection had a 2.53 (95% CI: 1.18–5.46) times hazard of liver-related death compared with HCV mono-infection.
In this study, HCV seropositivity did not predict liver-related mortality while HIV seropositivity did. The findings highlight the critical role of HIV mono- and co-infection rather than HCV infection in contributing to liver-related mortality among PWID in this setting.
PMCID: PMC4228046  PMID: 25391765
injection drug use; hepatitis C virus infection; mortality; Canada
6.  The impact of drug use patterns on mortality among polysubstance users in a Canadian setting: a prospective cohort study 
BMC Public Health  2014;14(1):1153.
Illicit drug use is a well-established risk factor for morbidity and mortality. However, few studies have examined the impact of different drug use patterns on mortality among polysubstance using populations. This study aimed to identify drug-specific patterns of mortality among a cohort of polysubstance using persons who inject drugs (PWIDs).
PWIDs in Vancouver, Canada were prospectively followed between May 1996 and December 2011. Participants were linked to the provincial vital statistics database to ascertain mortality rates and causes of death. We used multivariate Cox proportional hazards regression to investigate the relationships between drug use patterns (daily alcohol use, heroin injection and non-injection use, cocaine injection, amphetamine injection and non-injection use, crack smoking and speedball injecting) and time to all-cause mortality.
2330 individuals were followed for a median of 61 months (inter-quartile range: 33 – 112). In total, 466 (19.1%) individuals died for an incidence density of 3.1 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 2.8 – 3.4) deaths per 100 person-years. In multivariate analyses, after adjusting for HIV infection and other potential confounders, only daily cocaine injection remained independently associated with all-cause mortality (adjusted hazard ratio [AHR] = 1.36, 95% CI: 1.06 – 1.76).
Although heroin injecting is traditionally viewed as carrying the highest risk of mortality, in this setting, only daily cocaine injecting was associated with all-cause mortality. These findings highlight the urgent need to identify novel treatments and harm reduction strategies for cocaine injectors.
PMCID: PMC4246520  PMID: 25377274
Mortality; Injection drug use; Cocaine; Vancouver; Cohort study
7.  Self-management of pain among people who inject drugs in Vancouver 
Pain management  2014;4(1):27-35.
To evaluate factors and methods associated with self-management of pain among people who inject drugs (IDUs) in Vancouver (Canada).
Patients & methods
This cross-sectional study used bivariate statistics and multivariate logistic regression to analyze self-reported responses among 483 IDUs reporting moderate-to-extreme pain in two prospective cohort studies from 1 December 2012 to 31 May 2013.
Median age was 49.6 years (interquartile range: 43.9–54.6 years), 33.1% of IDUs were female and 97.5% reported self-management of pain. Variables independently and positively associated with self-managed pain included having been refused a prescription for pain medication (adjusted odds ratio: 7.83; 95% CI: 1.64–37.3) and having ever been homeless (adjusted odds ratio: 3.70; 95% CI: 1.00–13.7). Common methods of self-management of pain included injecting heroin (52.7%) and obtaining diverted prescription pain medication from the street (65.0%).
Self-management of pain was common among IDUs who reported moderate-to-extreme pain in this setting, particularly among those who had been refused a prescription for pain medication and those who had ever been homeless. These data highlight the challenges of adequate pain management among IDUs.
PMCID: PMC3962749  PMID: 24641341
9.  The role of depression and social support in non-fatal drug overdose among a cohort of injection drug users in a Canadian setting 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2013;132(3):603-609.
Non-fatal overdose remains a significant source of morbidity among people who inject drugs (IDU). Although depression and social support are important in shaping the health of IDU, little is known about the relationship between these factors and overdose. Therefore, we sought to determine whether depressive symptoms and social support predicted non-fatal overdose among IDU in a Canadian setting.
Data were derived from three prospective cohorts of people who use drugs: the Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study (VIDUS), the ACCESS Cohort, and the At-Risk Youth Study (ARYS). Multilevel modeling was used to determine if depression and social support were significant predictors of non-fatal overdose across time. Analyses were stratified by sex.
There were 1,931 participants included in this analysis, including 653 (33.8%) females and 69 (3.6%) youth 20 years old or younger. Depressed men (Adjusted odds ratio [AOR] =1.53, 95% confidence intervals [CI] =1.25, 1.87) and women (Adjusted odds ratio [AOR] =2.23, 95% confidence intervals [CI] =1.65, 3.00) were more likely to experience a non-fatal overdose. Further, among women, those who reported having 3 or more persons they could rely upon for social support were less likely to experience a non-fatal overdose (AOR=0.54, 95% 0.31, 0.93).
Although depression was a significant predictor of non-fatal drug overdose, social support was a significant predictor among women only. Possible strategies to prevent non-fatal overdose may include identifying IDU experiencing severe depressive symptoms and providing targeted mental health treatments and mobilizing interpersonal social support among IDU, especially among women.
PMCID: PMC3770831  PMID: 23647731
Depression; social epidemiology; substance use; longitudinal data analysis; social support
10.  Neighborhood of residence and risk of initiation into injection drug use among street-involved youth in a Canadian setting 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2013;132(3):486-490.
While research has suggested that exposure to environments where drug use is prevalent may be a key determinant of drug-related risk, little is known regarding the impact of such exposure on the initiation of illicit injection drug use. We assessed whether neighborhood of residence predicted rates of injecting initiation among a cohort of street-involved youth in Vancouver, British Columbia.
We followed street-involved injecting naïve youth aged 14–26 and compared rates of injecting initiation between youth residing in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) neighborhood (the site of a large street-based illicit drug market) to those living in other parts of the city. Univariate and multivariate Cox regression analyses were employed to determine whether residence in the DTES was independently associated with increased risk of initiation of injection drug use.
Between September, 2005 and November, 2011, 422 injection-naïve individuals were followed, among whom 77 initiated injecting for an incidence density of injecting of 10.3 (95% Confidence Interval [CI] 5.0–18.8) per 100 person years. In a multivariate model, residence in the DTES was independently associated with initiating injection drug use (Adjusted Hazard Ratio [AHR] = 2.16, 95% CI: 1.33 – 3.52, p = 0.002).
These results suggest neighborhood of residence affects the risk of initiation into injection drug use among street-involved youth. The development of prevention interventions should target high-risk neighborhoods where risk of initiating into injecting drug use may be greatest.
PMCID: PMC3927649  PMID: 23587537
initiation; injection drug use; HIV; street-involved youth; At Risk Youth Study; ARYS; Vancouver; Downtown Eastside
Drug and alcohol dependence  2013;132(3):535-540.
Needle and syringe programmes (NSPs) have been shown to reduce HIV risk among people who inject drugs (IDU). However, concerns remain that NSPs delay injecting cessation.
Individuals reporting injection drug use in the past six months in the greater Vancouver area were enrolled in the Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study (VIDUS). Annual estimates of the proportion of IDU reporting injecting cessation were generated. Generalized estimating equation (GEE) analysis was used to assess factors associated with injecting cessation during a period of NSP expansion.
Between May 1996 and December 2010, the number of NSP sites in Vancouver increased from 1 to 29 (P < 0.001). The estimated proportion of participants (n = 2,710) reporting cessation increased from 2.4% (95% Confidence Interval [CI]: 0.0% – 7.0%) in 1996 to 47.9% (95% CI: 46.8% – 48.9%) in 2010 (P < 0.001). In a multivariate GEE analysis, the authors observed an association between increasing calendar year and increased likelihood of injecting cessation (Adjusted Odds Ratio = 1.17, 95% CI: 1.15, 1.19, P < 0.001).
The proportion of IDU reporting injecting cessation increased during a period of NSP expansion, implying that increased NSP availability did not delay injection cessation. These results should help inform community decisions on whether to implement NSPs.
PMCID: PMC3762907  PMID: 23642315
injection drug use; cessation; needle exchange programme; Vancouver
Health & place  2013;23:122-127.
The impact of transitions in housing status among street youth have not been well explored. This study uses a generalized linear mixed effects model to identify factors associated with transitions into and out of homelessness among a prospective cohort of 685 drug-using street-involved youth aged 14–26. In multivariate analysis, high intensity substance use, difficulty accessing addiction treatment, incarceration, sex work, and difficulty accessing housing (all p < 0.05) either significantly facilitated or hindered housing transitions. Findings highlight the importance of external structural factors in shaping youth’s housing status and point to opportunities to improve the housing stability of vulnerable youth.
PMCID: PMC3758414  PMID: 23838565
Homelessness; drug use; street-youth; addiction treatment; risk behavior; incarceration
13.  Injection drug users’ involvement in drug dealing in the downtown eastside of Vancouver: Social organization and systemic violence 
Illicit drug markets are a key component of the risk environment surrounding injection drug use. However, relatively few studies have explored how injection drug users’ (IDUs) involvement in drug dealing shapes their experiences of drug market-related harm. This exploratory qualitative study aims to understand IDUs’ dealing activities and roles, as well as the perceived benefits and risks related to participation in illicit drug markets, including experiences of drug market violence.
Ten IDUs with extensive involvement in drug dealing activities were recruited from the Vancouver Injection Drug User Study (VIDUS) and participated in semi-structured qualitative interviews, which elicited discussion of experiences dealing drugs, perceived benefits and hazards related to dealing, and understandings of drug market violence.
Participant's involvement in drug market activities included corporate sales, freelance or independent sales, and opportunistic sales termed “middling” as well as drug market-related hustles entailing selling bogus drugs and robbing dealers. Participants primarily dealt drugs to support their own illicit drug use, and we found that arrest and criminal justice involvement, hazards stemming from drug debts, and drug market-related violence were key risks related to dealing activities.
The challenges of managing personal consumption while selling drugs exacerbates the hazards associated with drug dealing. Efforts to address drug dealing among IDUs should consider both drug dependency and the material conditions that propel drug users towards dealing activities. Interventions should explore the potential of combining enhanced drug treatment programs with low threshold employment and alternative income generation opportunities.
PMCID: PMC3911907  PMID: 23664788
injection drug use; drug dealing; risk environment; violence
14.  Prescription opioid injection and risk of hepatitis C in relation to traditional drugs of misuse in a prospective cohort of street youth 
BMJ Open  2014;4(7):e005419.
Despite dramatic increases in the misuse of prescription opioids, the extent to which their intravenous injection places drug users at risk of acquiring hepatitis C virus (HCV) remains unclear. We sought to compare risk of HCV acquisition from injection of prescription opioids to that from other street drugs among high-risk street youth.
Prospective cohort study.
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada from September 2005 to November 2011.
The At-Risk Youth Study (ARYS) is a prospective cohort of drug-using adolescents and young adults aged 14–26 years. Participants were recruited through street-based outreach and snowball sampling.
Primary outcome measure
HCV antibody seroconversion, measured every 6 months during follow-up. Risk for seroconversion from injection of prescription opioids was compared with injection of other street drugs of misuse, including heroin, cocaine or crystal methamphetamine, using Cox proportional hazards regression controlling for age, gender and syringe sharing.
Baseline HCV seropositivity was 10.6%. Among 512 HCV-seronegative youth contributing 860.2 person-years of follow-up, 56 (10.9%) seroconverted, resulting in an incidence density of 6.5/100 person-years. In bivariate analyses, prescription opioid injection (HR=3.48; 95% CI 1.57 to 7.70) predicted HCV seroconversion. However, in multivariate modelling, only injection of heroin (adjusted HR=4.56; 95% CI 2.39 to 8.70), cocaine (adjusted HR=1.88; 95% CI 1.00 to 3.54) and crystal methamphetamine (adjusted HR=2.91; 95% CI 1.57 to 5.38) remained independently associated with HCV seroconversion, whereas injection of prescription opioids did not (adjusted HR=0.94; 95% CI 0.40 to 2.21).
Although misuse of prescription opioids is on the rise, traditional street drugs still posed the greatest threat of HCV transmission in this setting. Nonetheless, the high prevalence and incidence of HCV among Canadian street youth underscore the need for evidence-based drug prevention, treatment and harm reduction interventions targeting this vulnerable population.
PMCID: PMC4120401  PMID: 25052173
15.  Declining Incidence of Hepatitis C Virus Infection among People Who Inject Drugs in a Canadian Setting, 1996-2012 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(6):e97726.
People who inject drugs (PWID) are at high risk of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. Trends in HCV incidence and associated risk factors among PWID recruited between 1996 and 2012 in Vancouver, Canada were evaluated.
Data were derived from a long-term cohort of PWID in Vancouver. Trends in HCV incidence were evaluated. Factors associated with time to HCV infection were assessed using Cox proportional hazards regression.
Among 2,589, 82% (n = 2,121) were HCV antibody-positive at enrollment. Among 364 HCV antibody-negative participants with recent (last 30 days) injecting at enrollment, 126 HCV seroconversions were observed [Overall HCV incidence density: 8.6 cases/100 person-years (py); 95% confidence interval (95% CI): 7.2, 10.1; HCV incidence density among those with injecting during follow-up: 11.5 cases/100 py; 95% CI 9.7, 13.6]. The overall HCV incidence density declined significantly from 25.0/100 py (95% CI: 20.2, 30.3) in 1996–99, as compared to 6.0/100 py (95% CI: 4.1, 8.5) in 2000–2005, and 3.1/100 py (95% CI: 2.0, 4.8) in 2006–2012. Among those with injecting during follow-up, the overall HCV incidence density declined significantly from 27.9/100 py (95% CI: 22.6, 33.6) in 1996–99, as compared to 7.5/100 py (95% CI: 5.1, 10.6) in 2000–2005, and 4.9/100 py (95% CI: 3.1, 7.4) in 2006–2012. Unstable housing, HIV infection, and injecting of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine were independently associated with HCV seroconversion.
HCV incidence has dramatically declined among PWID in this setting. However, improved public health strategies to prevent and treat HCV are urgently required to reduce HCV-associated morbidity and mortality.
PMCID: PMC4045728  PMID: 24897109
16.  Comparing the efficacy of efavirenz and boosted lopinavir using viremia copy-years 
HIV-1 plasma viral load during treatment can be highly variable. Thus, there is the need to find a measure of cumulative viremia that can be used to assess both the short- and long-term efficacy of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Here, we validate a measure of cumulative viremia to evaluate HAART efficacy.
We accessed HAART efficacy using data from a randomized clinical trial conducted in Mexico. We compared the proportion of individuals achieving a viral load <50 and <400 copies/mL at week 48, against the cumulative plasma viral load, estimated as the area under the plasma viral load curve (AUVLC). High AUVLC indicates high cumulative viremia.
Results and discussion
There was a strong and significant association between the proportion of individuals achieving a viral load <50 and <400 copies/mL at week 48, with individuals suppressed having significant lower cumulative viremia. The median area was 7513 (25th–75th percentile [Q1–Q3] 6634−8180) if viral load <50 copies/mL and 7679 (Q1–Q3 6899−9373) if viral load ≥50 copies/mL (p-value 0.0284). When the analysis was stratified by study arm, individuals on efavirenz had lower cumulative viremia than those on boosted lopinavir.
Our findings suggest that cumulative viremia should be explored further as a tool to simultaneously evaluate the individual and public health efficacy of HAART. This is particularly relevant to the implementation and evaluation of the Treatment 2.0 strategy recently proposed by UNAIDS and the WHO, as a means to maximize the individual and public health benefit of HAART.
PMCID: PMC4013478  PMID: 24805184
HIV-1 plasma viral load; antiretroviral therapy; clinical trial; area under the curve; cumulative viremia; efficacy; efavirenz; boosted lopinavir
17.  Increases and decreases in drug use attributed to housing status among street-involved youth in a Canadian setting 
Among a cohort of drug-using street-involved youth, we sought to identify the prevalence of reporting increases and decreases in illicit drug use due to their current housing status and to identify factors associated with reporting these changes.
This longitudinal study was based on data collected between June 2008 and May 2012 from a prospective cohort of street-involved youth aged 14–26 in Vancouver, Canada. At semi-annual study follow-up visits, youth were asked if their drug use was affected by their housing status. Using generalized estimating equations, we identified factors associated with perceived increases and decreases in drug use attributed to housing status. Among our sample of 536 participants at baseline, 164 (31%) youth reported increasing their drug use due to their housing situation and 71 (13%) reported decreasing their drug use. In multivariate analysis, factors that were positively associated with perceived increases in drug use attributed to housing status included the following: being homeless, engaging in sex work and drug dealing. Regular employment was negatively associated with increasing drug use due to housing status. Among those who reported decreasing their drug use, only homelessness was significant in bivariate analysis.
Perceived changes in drug use due to housing status were relatively common in this setting and were associated with being homeless and, among those who increased their drug use, engaging in risky income generation activities. These findings suggest that structural factors, particularly housing and economic opportunities, may be crucial interventions for reducing or limiting drug use among street-involved youth.
PMCID: PMC3999483  PMID: 24721725
Homelessness; Drug use; Street-involved youth; Stable housing; Risk behaviour; Employment
18.  Homelessness Independently Predicts Injection Drug Use Initiation among Street-involved Youth in a Canadian setting 
This longitudinal study examines the association between homelessness and injection drug use initiation among a cohort of street-involved youth in a setting of high prevalence crystal methamphetamine use.
Data were derived from the At-Risk Youth Study, a prospective cohort of street-involved youth aged 14 to 26 recruited between September 2005 and November 2011. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to identify factors independently associated with time to injection initiation.
Among 422 street-youth who had never injected at baseline, 77 injection initiation events were observed during follow-up. Homelessness was independently associated with injection initiation in multivariate Cox regression (Relative Hazard: 1.80 [95% CI: 1.13–2.87]) after adjusting for crystal methamphetamine use and other potential confounders.
These findings highlight that homelessness is a key risk factor for injection initiation among street-involved youth. Supportive housing interventions for street-youth may help prevent injection drug use initiation among this high-risk population.
PMCID: PMC3608753  PMID: 23299006
Youth; injection drug use; initiation; homelessness
19.  Severe food insecurity is associated with elevated unprotected sex among HIV-seropositive injection drug users independent of HAART use 
AIDS (London, England)  2011;25(16):2037-2042.
Despite emerging evidence of a significant adverse relationship between food insecurity and sexual risk-taking, data have been primarily derived from resource-constrained settings and HIV-negative populations. To our knowledge, this study is the first to longitudinally evaluate the relationship between food insecurity and unprotected sex among HIV-seropositive people who inject drugs [injection drug users (IDUs)] both on and not on HAART.
Longitudinal analyses were restricted to HIV-positive IDUs who completed baseline and at least one follow-up visit in a prospective cohort (AIDS Care Cohort to evaluate Exposure to Survival Services, 2005–2009).
We constructed a multivariate logistic model using generalized estimating equations (GEEs) to assess an independent relationship between severe food insecurity (e.g., hunger due to lack of access or means to acquire food) and unprotected vaginal/anal sex.
Among 470 HIV-positive IDUs, the median age was 42 years (interquartile range 36–47) with 61% men and 39% women. The prevalence of severe food insecurity was 71%, with no differences by HAART use. Severe food insecure IDUs were marginally less likely to have a suppressed HIV-1 RNA viral load (31 vs. 39%, p=0.099). In multivariate GEE analyses, severe food insecurity [adjusted odds ratio=2.68, 95% confidence interval 1.49–4.82] remained independently correlated with unprotected sex among HIV-positive IDUs, controlling for age, sex/gender, married/cohabitating partner, binge drug use, homelessness, and HAART use.
These findings highlight a crucial need for structural HIV interventions that incorporate targeted food assistance strategies for IDUs. Given recent evidence of poor virological response among food insecure individuals on HAART, innovative HIV care models should integrate targeted food security programs and early access to HAART.
PMCID: PMC3956106  PMID: 21811140
food insecurity; HAART; HIV/AIDS; injection drug use; sexual risk
20.  Social and structural factors associated with HIV disease progression among illicit drug users: A systematic review 
AIDS (London, England)  2012;26(9):1049-1063.
To systematically review factors associated with HIV disease progression among illicit drug users, focusing on exposures exogenous to individuals that likely shape access and adherence to HIV treatment.
A systematic review of peer-reviewed English-language studies among HIV-seropositive illicit drug users with at least one of these endpoint of interest: a diagnosis of AIDS; death; changes/differences in CD4 cell counts; or changes/differences in plasma HIV-1 RNA levels.
Articles were included if they reported factors associated with an outcome of interest among a group of illicit drug users. Studies were identified, screened and selected using systematic methods.
Of 2,668 studies matching the search criteria, 58 (2%) met the inclusion criteria, all but one from North America or Western Europe. Overall, 41 (71%) studies contained significant individual-level clinical characteristics or behaviours (e.g., illicit drug use) associated with disease progression. Fifteen studies (26%) identified significant social, physical, economic or policy-level exposures, including incarceration, housing status or lack of legal income.
While past studies demonstrate important environmental exposures that appear to shape access to care and subsequent disease progression, the limited literature to examine these factors demonstrates the need for future research to consider risk environment characteristics and the role they may play in shaping health outcomes from HIV infection among drug users through determining access and adherence to evidence-based care. (198 words)
PMCID: PMC3955099  PMID: 22333747
Antiretroviral therapy; CD4; drug users; pathogenesis; progression; risk factors; viral load
21.  Putting risk compensation to rest: Reframing the relationship between risk behavior and antiretroviral therapy among injection drug users 
AIDS (London, England)  2012;26(18):2405-2407.
PMCID: PMC3954705  PMID: 23151496
HAART; HIV; injection drug use; risk behavior; risk compensation
22.  Demographics, Health-Care Utilization, and Substance Use Profiles of Older Adults in Canada’s Lowest Income Neighbourhood 
Canadian Geriatrics Journal  2013;17(1):5-11.
This study aimed to determine the baseline demographics, health status, and drug use profiles of current and former substance-using older adults in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
Data were derived from two U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded cohort studies of current and former illegal drug users in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. We used logistic regression of cross-sectional data obtained between June and November 2008 to calculate odds ratios and identify factors that were more commonly associated with cohort members being older adults (greater than or equal to age 50).
214 subjects (25%) were greater than or equal to age 50 upon study enrollment. Females (Adjusted Odds Ratio [AOR]: 0.50; 95% CI: 0.34–0.75) and individuals who reported Aboriginal ancestry (AOR: 0.49; 95% CI: 0.33–0.72) were less likely to be in the older cohort. Individuals with higher income (AOR: 2.07; 95% CI: 1.16–3.68 per $1,000), and those with a regular place to stay were more likely to be in older cohort (AOR: 3.39; 95% CI: 1.90–6.06). Older participants accessed family physicians more frequently (OR: 1.47; 95% CI: 1.01 – 2.16) and were more likely to be actively taking (OR: 3.34; 95% CI 1.71–6.55) or have taken (OR 3.21; 95% CI 1.58–6.53) HIV antiretroviral therapy. There were no differences between groups in regard to injection drug use status or daily alcohol intake.
Older current and former illegal drug users in a major inner city Canadian centre have different demographic, health-care, and drug utilization profiles. Further studies in this population are warranted.
PMCID: PMC3940477  PMID: 24596588
injection drug use; initiation; homeless; older adults
23.  High prevalence of exposure to the child welfare system among street-involved youth in a Canadian setting: implications for policy and practice 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:197.
Street-involved youth are more likely to experience trauma and adverse events in childhood; however, little is known about exposure to the child welfare system among this vulnerable population. This study sought to examine the prevalence and correlates of being in government care among street-involved youth in Vancouver, Canada.
From September 2005 to November 2012, data were collected from the At-Risk Youth Study, a prospective cohort of street-involved youth aged 14–26 who use illicit drugs. Logistic regression analysis was employed to identify factors associated with a history of being in government care.
Among our sample of 937 street-involved youth, 455 (49%) reported being in government care at some point in their childhood. In a multivariate analysis, Aboriginal ancestry (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 2.07; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.50 – 2.85), younger age at first “hard” substance use (AOR = 1.10; 95% CI: 1.05 – 1.16), high school incompletion (AOR = 1.40; 95% CI: 1.00 – 1.95), having a parent that drank heavily or used illicit drugs (AOR = 1.48; 95% CI: 1.09 – 2.01), and experiencing physical abuse (AOR = 1.90; 95% CI: 1.22 – 2.96) were independently associated with exposure to the child welfare system.
Youth with a history of being in government care appear to be at high-risk of adverse illicit substance-related behaviours. Evidence-based interventions are required to better support vulnerable children and youth with histories of being in the child welfare system, and prevent problematic substance use and street-involvement among this population.
PMCID: PMC3936938  PMID: 24564822
Child welfare system; Foster care; Government care; Street-involved youth; Youth substance use
24.  Expansion of HAART Coverage Is Associated with Sustained Decreases in HIV/AIDS Morbidity, Mortality and HIV Transmission: The “HIV Treatment as Prevention” Experience in a Canadian Setting 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e87872.
There has been renewed call for the global expansion of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) under the framework of HIV treatment as prevention (TasP). However, population-level sustainability of this strategy has not been characterized.
We used population-level longitudinal data from province-wide registries including plasma viral load, CD4 count, drug resistance, HAART use, HIV diagnoses, AIDS incidence, and HIV-related mortality. We fitted two Poisson regression models over the study period, to relate estimated HIV incidence and the number of individuals on HAART and the percentage of virologically suppressed individuals.
HAART coverage, median pre-HAART CD4 count, and HAART adherence increased over time and were associated with increasing virological suppression and decreasing drug resistance. AIDS incidence decreased from 6.9 to 1.4 per 100,000 population (80% decrease, p = 0.0330) and HIV-related mortality decreased from 6.5 to 1.3 per 100,000 population (80% decrease, p = 0.0115). New HIV diagnoses declined from 702 to 238 cases (66% decrease; p = 0.0004) with a consequent estimated decline in HIV incident cases from 632 to 368 cases per year (42% decrease; p = 0.0003). Finally, our models suggested that for each increase of 100 individuals on HAART, the estimated HIV incidence decreased 1.2% and for every 1% increase in the number of individuals suppressed on HAART, the estimated HIV incidence also decreased by 1%.
Our results show that HAART expansion between 1996 and 2012 in BC was associated with a sustained and profound population-level decrease in morbidity, mortality and HIV transmission. Our findings support the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of HIV treatment as prevention within an adequately resourced environment with no financial barriers to diagnosis, medical care or antiretroviral drugs. The 2013 Consolidated World Health Organization Antiretroviral Therapy Guidelines offer a unique opportunity to further evaluate TasP in other settings, particularly within generalized epidemics, and resource-limited setting, as advocated by UNAIDS.
PMCID: PMC3922718  PMID: 24533061
25.  Groin injecting among a community-recruited sample of people who inject drugs in Thailand 
Use of the femoral vein for the injection of illicit drugs (i.e. groin injecting) has been linked to various health-related harms, including deep vein thrombosis. However, little is known about the prevalence of groin injecting and factors that predict this practice among people who inject drugs (PWID) in Thailand. We sought to investigate the prevalence and factors associated with groin injecting in Bangkok, Thailand.
Data were derived from the Mitsampan Community Research Project in Bangkok between July and October 2011. Multivariate logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with groin injecting in the last six months.
Among 437 participants, 34.3% reported groin injecting in the last six months. In multivariate analyses, factors positively associated with groin injecting included: having higher than secondary education (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.59; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.00 – 2.56), weekly midazolam injection (AOR = 8.26; 95% CI: 5.04 – 14.06), and reports of having had drugs planted on oneself by police (AOR = 2.14; 95% CI: 1.37 – 3.36).
Over one-third of our sample of Thai PWID reported recent groin injecting. Frequent midazolam injection and higher education were found to be associated with groin injecting. That high intensity PWID were more likely to inject in the groin is concerning given the known negative consequences associated with the groin as a site of injection. Additionally, PWID who reported drug planting by police were more likely to inject in the groin, suggesting that reliance on law enforcement approaches may undermine safe injection practices in this setting. These findings highlight the need for evidence-based interventions to address the harms associated with groin injecting, including efforts to alert PWID to risks of groin injecting, the distribution of appropriate injecting equipment, and efforts to encourage use of other injecting sites.
PMCID: PMC3904698  PMID: 24433435
Groin injection; People who inject drugs; Midazolam; Police; Thailand

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