Sharing of Needles and Syringes among Men Who Inject Drugs: HIV Risk in Northwest Bangladesh

Pasa, M. Kamal; Alom, Kazi Robiul; Bashri, Zubaida; Vermund, Sten H.
February 2016
PLoS ONE;2/5/2016, Vol. 11 Issue 2, p1
Academic Journal
Introduction: Injection drug use is prevalent in northwestern Bangladesh. We sought to explore the context of needle/syringe sharing among persons who inject drugs (PWID), examining risk exposures to blood-borne infections like the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis in a region where these dual epidemics are likely to expand. Methods: We used a qualitative research approach to learn about injection practices, conducting 60 in-depth interviews among PWID. We then conducted 12 focus group discussions (FGDs) that generated a checklist of salient issues, and followed up with personal observations of typical days at the drug-use venues. Content and interpretative frameworks were used to analyze qualitative information and socio-demographic information, using SPSS software. Results: We found that needle/syringe-sharing behaviours were integrated into the overall social and cultural lives of drug users. Sharing behaviours were an central component of PWID social organization. Sharing was perceived as an inherent element within reciprocal relationships, and sharing was tied to beliefs about drug effects, economic adversity, and harassment due to their drug user status. Carrying used needles/syringes to drug-use venues was deemed essential since user-unfriendly needle-syringe distribution schedules of harm reduction programmes made it difficult to access clean needles/syringes in off-hours. PWID had low self-esteem. Unequal power relationships were reported between the field workers of harm reduction programmes and PWID. Field workers expressed anti-PWID bias and judgmental attitudes, and also had had misconceptions about HIV and hepatitis transmission. PWID were especially disturbed that no assistance was forthcoming from risk reduction programme staff when drug users manifested withdrawal symptoms. Conclusion: Interventions must take social context into account when scaling up programmes in diverse settings. The social organization of PWID include values that foster needle-syringe sharing. Utilization and impact of risk reduction programmes might be improved with expanded clean needle/syringe distribution at times and venues convenient for PWID, better trained and non-judgmental staff, and medical assistance for health problems, including drug withdrawal symptoms.


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