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J Urban Health. 2008 Jan;85(1):77-89. Epub 2007 Nov 24.

Social network-related risk factors for bloodborne virus infections among injection drug users receiving syringes through secondary exchange.

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Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, McGill University, 1020 Pine Avenue West, Montreal, H3A 1A2, QC, Canada.


Secondary syringe exchange (SSE) refers to the exchange of sterile syringes between injection drug users (IDUs). To date there has been limited examination of SSE in relation to the social networks of IDUs. This study aimed to identify characteristics of drug injecting networks associated with the receipt of syringes through SSE. Active IDUs were recruited from syringe exchange and methadone treatment programs in Montreal, Canada, between April 2004 and January 2005. Information on each participant and on their drug-injecting networks was elicited using a structured, interviewer-administered questionnaire. Subjects' network characteristics were examined in relation to SSE using regression models with generalized estimating equations. Of 218 participants, 126 were SSE recipients with 186 IDUs in their injecting networks. The 92 non-recipients reported 188 network IDUs. Networks of SSE recipients and non-recipients were similar with regard to network size and demographics of network members. In multivariate analyses adjusted for age and gender, SSE recipients were more likely than non-recipients to self-report being HIV-positive (OR=3.56 [1.54-8.23]); require or provide help with injecting (OR=3.74 [2.01-6.95]); have a social network member who is a sexual partner (OR=1.90 [1.11-3.24]), who currently attends a syringe exchange or methadone program (OR=2.33 [1.16-4.70]), injects daily (OR=1.77 [1.11-2.84]), and shares syringes with the subject (OR=2.24 [1.13-4.46]). SSE is associated with several injection-related risk factors that could be used to help focus public health interventions for risk reduction. Since SSE offers an opportunity for the dissemination of important prevention messages, SSE-based networks should be used to improve public health interventions. This approach can optimize the benefits of SSE while minimizing the potential risks associated with the practice of secondary exchange.

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