Objectives: This study examined factors associated with obtaining syringes from a needle exchange program (NEP) and other safer sources in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A.
Design and Methods: A cross-sectional face-to-face survey was administered to 741 current drug injectors recruited by snowball sampling techniques. A brief openended interview was conducted on a subsample.
Results: Most (85%) participants obtained needles from street needle sellers. Only 8% obtained their needles exclusively from safer sources (NEPs, pharmacies, hospitals, or patients with diabetes). Cocaine use was associated with obtaining needles from the NEP but not from exclusively safer sources. Obtaining needles from only safer sources was associated with being female and less frequent needle sharing and shooting gallery attendance. Among HIV-seropositive participants, those who were diagnosed before the year that the NEP began were more likely to obtain needles from safer sources. Participants who sold needles reported that it was easy to make used needles appear to be unused, and some admitted to selling used syringes as new.
Conclusions: Street needle sellers are an important source of needles for drug injectors, and few injectors appear able to determine whether these needles are clean. Individual sealing of diabetic syringes may reduce the risk of blood-borne infections by enabling both drug injectors and patients with diabetes to better judge the sterility of the needles they purchase.
(C) 2001 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.