Gender comparisons of injection drug use practices in shooting galleries

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Abstract

Previous research studies and anecdotal evidence portray shooting galleries as locales that place injection drug users at great risk for HIV infection, drug use and violence. Collectively, these studies highlight the need to intervene with injectors who frequent shooting galleries. However, few researchers have studied an often-forgotten risk group – women injecting drug users who frequent shooting galleries – and compared their risk behaviors to their male counterparts. To address this gap in the research literature and to evaluate the functionality of the shooting gallery as a setting for HIV prevention, we collected data on risk practices from 201 injectors (101 men and 100 women) who were recruited from eight shooting galleries in Miami, Florida. Results indicate that, compared with men, women injectors engaged in a similar variety and frequency of injection risk behaviors and had more shooting companions. While only minor gender differences were apparent, relatively few injectors – male or female – adhered to current recommendations for needle hygiene practices. Needle hygiene practices existed equally among injectors of both sexes, however very few adhered to current recommendations. Furthermore, contrary to common images of shooting galleries, use of other drugs was infrequently reported, episodes of violence or victimization were uncommon, and sexual contact almost never occurred. Operators of shooting galleries, both men and women, indicated their willingness to participate in HIV prevention efforts. Implications of these findings for HIV intervention indicate that (1) there is a great need to intervene with both men and women IDUs who frequent shooting galleries and that (2) shooting galleries can be an optimal setting for HIV prevention.

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