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Harm Reduct J. 2010 Feb 9;7:2. doi: 10.1186/1477-7517-7-2.

Giving away used injection equipment: missed prevention message?

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Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 33 Russell Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



Our objective was to examine factors associated with distributive injection equipment sharing and how needle exchange programs (NEPs) can help reduce distributive sharing among injection drug users (IDUs).


145 English speaking Canadian IDUs ages 16 years and over who had injected in the past 30 days were recruited for a cross-sectional survey. Participants were asked about their socio-demographic characteristics, HIV risk behaviours, social support, drug treatment readiness, program satisfaction, health and social service use and NEP drug use. Bivariate statistics and logistic regression were used to characterize the population and examine correlates of sharing behaviour.


More IDUs reported distributive sharing of cookers (45%) than needles (36%) or other types of equipment (water 36%; filters 29%; swabs 8%). Regression analyses revealed the following factors associated with distributing used cookers: a history of cocaine/crack injection, an Addiction Severity Index (ASI) score indicative of a mental health problem, and older than 30 years of age. Factors associated with giving away used water included: male, injected methadone, injected other stimulants and moved 3+ times in the past 6 months. Factors associated with giving away used filters included: injected cocaine/crack or stayed overnight on the street or other public place. Factors associated with giving away swabs included: an ASI mental health score indicative of a mental health problem, and HCV negative status.


Our findings show that more IDUs give away cookers than needles or other injection equipment. While the results showed that correlates of sharing differed by piece of equipment, each point to distributive sharing by the most marginalized IDUs. Targeting prevention efforts to reduce equipment sharing in general, and cookers in particular is warranted to reduce use of contaminated equipment and viral transmission.

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