Reduction of Injection-Related Risk Behaviors After Emergency Implementation of a Syringe Services Program During an HIV Outbreak

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Abstract

Objective:

To describe injection-related HIV risk behaviors preimplementation and postimplementation of an emergency syringe services program (SSP) in Scott County, Indiana, after an HIV outbreak among persons who inject drugs (PWID).

Design:

Mixed methods retrospective pre–post intervention analysis.

Methods:

We analyzed routine SSP program data collected at first and most recent visit among clients with ≥2 visits, ≥7 days apart from April 4 to August 30, 2015, to quantify changes in injection-related risk behaviors. We also analyzed qualitative data collected from 56 PWID recruited in Scott County to understand factors contributing to these behaviors.

Results:

SSP clients included in our analysis (n = 148, 62% of all SSP clients) reported significant (P < 0.001) reductions over a median 10 weeks (range 1–23) in syringe sharing to inject (18%–2%) and divide drugs (19%–4%), sharing other injection equipment (eg, cookers) (24%–5%), and number of uses of the same syringe [2 (interquartile range: 1–4) to 1 (interquartile range: 1–1)]. Qualitative study participants described access to sterile syringes and safer injection education through the SSP, as explanatory factors for these reductions. Injection frequency findings were mixed, but overall suggested no change. The number of syringes returned by SSP clients increased from 0 at first visit to median 57. All qualitative study participants reported using sharps containers provided by the SSP.

Conclusions:

Analyses of an SSP program and in-depth qualitative interview data showed rapid reduction of injection-related HIV risk behaviors among PWID post-SSP implementation. Sterile syringe access as part of comprehensive HIV prevention is an important tool to control and prevent HIV outbreaks.

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