High-Risk Personal Networks and Syringe Sharing as Risk Factors for HIV Infection Among New Drug Injectors

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In a cross-sectional study of 174 new injecting drug users (IDUs) in New York City who had injected for ≤6 years, we examined whether those who both share syringes and have personal risk networks that include high-risk injectors are particularly likely to be infected with HIV. Subjects were street recruited between July 1991 and January 1993, were interviewed about their risk behaviors in the prior 2 years and their personal risk networks with other IDUs in the prior 30 days, and were tested for HIV; 20% were HIV seropositive. Among those who both shared syringes and had a personal risk network member who injected more than once a day, 40% were HIV seropositive (versus 14% for others, p < 0.001). In simultaneous multiple logistic regression, the interaction of both sharing syringes and having a personal risk network member who injected more than once a day remained independently and significantly associated with being HIV seropositive (OR, 3.57; 95% CI, 1.22, 10.43; p < 0.020), along with Latino race/ethnicity and exchanging sex for money or drugs. These findings suggest that the combination of sharing syringes with having a high-risk personal network is a risk factor for HIV infection among new IDUs. Studies of risk factors for HIV infection among new IDUs and interventions to reduce the spread of HIV among them should focus on their risk networks as well as their risk behaviors.

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