Crack pipe sharing can increase health risks among people who use drugs, yet the reasons for sharing these pipes have not been well described. Therefore, we sought to identify the prevalence and correlates of crack pipe sharing among a community-recruited sample of people who use illicit drugs in Vancouver, a setting where crack pipes are provided at low or no cost.
Data for this study were derived from two prospective cohorts of people who use drugs: the Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study (VIDUS) and the AIDS Care Cohort to evaluate Exposure to Survival Services (ACCESS). Multivariate logistic regression was used to identify factors independently associated with crack pipe sharing. Among 503 crack users, 238 (47.3%) participants reported having shared a crack pipe in the previous six months. Having acquired a mouthpiece in the last six months (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 1.91; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.31 - 2.79) and difficulty finding new pipes (AOR = 2.19; 95%CI: 1.42 - 3.37) were positively associated with pipe sharing. Binge drug use (AOR = 1.39; 95%CI: 0.96 - 2.02) was marginally associated with sharing pipes.
There was a high prevalence of crack pipe sharing in a setting where crack pipes are distributed at low or no cost. Difficulty accessing crack pipes was independently and positively associated with this behavior. These findings suggest that additional efforts are needed to discourage crack pipe sharing as well as increase access to crack pipes.
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Crack cocaine pipe sharing is associated with various health-related harms, including hepatitis C transmission. Although difficulty accessing crack pipes has been found to predict pipe sharing, little is known about the factors that limit pipe access in settings where pipes are provided at no cost, albeit in limited capacity. Therefore, we investigated crack pipe access among people who use drugs in Vancouver, Canada.
Data were collected through two Canadian prospective cohort studies. Generalised estimating equations with logit link for binary outcomes were used to identify factors associated with difficulty accessing crack pipes.
Among 914 participants who reported using crack cocaine, 33% reported difficulty accessing crack pipes. In multivariate analyses, factors independently associated with difficulty accessing crack pipes included: sex work involvement [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 1.57; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.03-2.39], having shared a crack pipe (AOR = 1.69; 95% CI: 1.32-2.16), police presence where one buys/uses drugs (AOR = 1.47; 95% CI: 1.10-1.95), difficulty accessing services (AOR = 1.74; 95% CI: 1.31-2.32) and health problems associated with crack use (AOR = 1.37; 95% CI: 1.04-1.79). Reasons given for difficulty accessing pipes included sources being closed (48.2%) and no one around selling pipes (18.1%).
A substantial proportion of people who smoke crack cocaine report difficulty accessing crack pipes in a setting where pipes are available at no cost but in limited quantity. These findings indicate the need for enhanced efforts to distribute crack pipes and address barriers to pipe access.
There has been widespread support for harm reduction programs as an essential component for responding to the HIV and illicit drug use epidemics. However, despite the growing international acceptance of harm reduction, there continues to be strong opposition to this approach, with critics alleging that harm reduction programs enable drug use. Vancouver, Canada provides a compelling case study that demonstrates that many positive impacts of harm reduction can be attained while addiction treatment-related goals are simultaneously supported. While the evidence for harm reduction is clearly mounting, it is unfortunate that ideological and political barriers to implementing harm reduction programs in Canada remain. As evidenced by Vancouver and elsewhere, harm reduction programs do not exacerbate drug use and undermine treatment efforts and should thereby occupy a well-deserved space within the continuum of programs and services offered to people who inject drugs.
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Street-level policing has been recognized as a driver of health-related harms among people who inject drugs (IDU). However, the extent of interaction between police and street-involved youth has not been well characterized. We examined the incidence and risk factors for police confrontations among street-involved youth in a Canadian setting.
Using data derived from participants enrolled in the At-Risk Youth Study (ARYS) between 2005 and 2011, we assessed factors associated with being stopped, searched, or detained by police without arrest in the previous six months using generalized estimating equations (GEE) with logit link for binary outcomes.
Among 991 participants followed during the study period, 440 (44.4%) reported being stopped, searched, or detained by police for an incidence density of 49.20 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 36.42-65.01) per 100 person years. In multivariate GEE analyses, factors associated with police confrontations included: male gender (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=1.35), homelessness (AOR=2.05), recent incarceration (AOR=1.78), daily cannabis use (AOR=1.31), daily heroin injecting (AOR=1.36), crack pipe/syringe sharing (AOR=1.61), injection drug use (AOR=1.37), public drug use (AOR=2.19), sex work involvement (AOR=1.67), and drug dealing (AOR=1.49) (all p
British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Studies have demonstrated the central function of plasma HIV-1 RNA viral load (pVL) levels on determining the risk of HIV disease progression and transmission. However, there is limited empirical research on virologic outcomes among sex workers who use illicit drugs (SW-DU).
Data were derived from the AIDS Care Cohort to evaluate Exposure to Survival Services, a cohort of HIV-positive illicit drug users. Using generalised estimating equations, we studied the longitudinal relationship between sex work and pVL suppression. We also tested whether adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) mediated the relationship between sex work and pVL suppression.
Between May 1996 and May 2012, 587 ART-exposed participants (2224 person-years of observation) were included in the study, among whom 127 (21.6%) reported sex work. In a time-updated multivariate model adjusted for various demographic, socioeconomic and clinical confounders (eg, gender, incarceration, CD4 cell count), SW-DU had an independently reduced odds of pVL suppression compared to non-SW-DU (adjusted OR (AOR)=0.66; 95% CI 0.45 to 0.96). However, adding ART adherence to the multivariate model eliminated this association (p>0.05), suggesting adherence mediated the relationship between sex work and pVL suppression.
Evidence-based interventions to improve adherence to ART among SW-DU are urgently needed to help produce the maximum HIV treatment and prevention benefit of ART among this highly vulnerable population.