Syringe possession arrests are associated with receptive syringe sharing in two Mexico–US border cities

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AimsTo identify factors associated with receptive syringe sharing among injection drug users (IDUs) and elucidate the association between syringe possession arrests and syringe sharing.DesignCross-sectional study.SettingMexican border cities of Tijuana, Baja California and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua.ParticipantsIDUs in Tijuana (n = 222) and Ciudad Juarez (n = 206) were recruited using respondent-driven sampling (RDS). IDUs were ≥ 18 years and had injected illicit drugs in the past month.MeasurementsAn interviewer-administered survey was used to collect quantitative data on socio-demographic, behavioral and contextual characteristics, including self-reported syringe sharing and arrests for syringe possession. Associations with receptive syringe sharing were investigated using logistic regression with RDS adjustment.FindingsOverall, 48% of participants reported ever being arrested for carrying an unused/sterile syringe, even though syringe purchase and possession is legal in Mexico. Arrest for possessing unused/sterile syringes was associated independently with receptive syringe sharing [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 2.05; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.26, 3.35], as was injecting in a shooting gallery (AOR = 3.60; 95% CI: 2.21, 5.87), injecting in the street (AOR = 2.05; 95% CI: 1.18, 3.54) and injecting methamphetamine (AOR = 2.77; 95% CI: 1.41, 5.47) or cocaine (AOR = 1.96; 95% CI: 1.15, 3.36). More than half of participants (57%) had been arrested for possessing a used syringe; in a second model, arrest for used syringe possession was also associated independently with receptive sharing (AOR = 2.87; 95% CI: 1.76, 4.69).ConclusionsWe documented high levels of syringe-related arrests in two Mexican–US border cities and an independent association between these arrests and risky injection practices. Public health collaborations with law enforcement to modify the risk environment in which drug use occurs are essential to facilitate safer injection practices.

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