Syringe Access, Syringe Sharing, and Police Encounters Among People Who Inject Drugs in New York City: A Community-Level Perspective
International Journal of Drug Policy, Vol. 25, Issue 1, pp. 105-111, 2014
Posted: 23 Mar 2014
Date Written: January 1, 2014
Background: Injection drug user (IDU) experience and perceptions of police practices may alter syringe exchange program (SEP) use or influence risky behaviour. Previously, no community-level data had been collected to identify the prevalence or correlates of police encounters reported by IDUs in the United States.
Methods: New York City IDUs recruited through respondent-driven sampling were asked about past-year police encounters and risk behaviours, as part of the National HIV Behavioural Surveillance study. Data were analysed using multiple logistic regression.
Results: A majority (52%) of respondents (n = 514) reported being stopped by police officers; 10% reported syringe confiscation. In multivariate modelling, IDUs reporting police stops were less likely to use SEPs consistently (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 0.59; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.40-0.89), and IDUs who had syringes confiscated may have been more likely to share syringes (AOR = 1.76; 95% CI = 0.90-3.44), though the finding did not reach statistical significance.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that police encounters may influence consistent SEP use. The frequency of IDU-police encounters highlights the importance of including contextual and structural measures in infectious disease risk surveillance, and the need to develop approaches harmonizing structural policing and public health.
Keywords: Injection drug use; Syringe exchange programs; Barriers; Policing; Structural factors; Public health surveillance
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