The social geography of AIDS and hepatitis risk: qualitative approaches for assessing local differences in sterile-syringe access among injection drug users

Am J Public Health. 2000 Jul;90(7):1049-56. doi: 10.2105/ajph.90.7.1049.


While significant gains have been achieved in understanding and reducing AIDS and hepatitis risks among injection drug users (IDUs), it is necessary to move beyond individual-level characteristics to gain a fuller understanding of the impact of social context on risk. In this study, 6 qualitative methods were used in combination with more traditional epidemiologic survey approaches and laboratory bioassay procedures to examine neighborhood differences in access to sterile syringes among IDUs in 3 northeastern cities. These methods consisted of (1) neighborhood-based IDU focus groups to construct social maps of local equipment acquisition and drug use sites; (2) ethnographic descriptions of target neighborhoods; (3) IDU diary keeping on drug use and injection equipment acquisition; (4) ethnographic day visits with IDUs in natural settings; (5) interviews with IDUs about syringe acquisition and collection of syringes for laboratory analysis; and (6) focused field observation and processual interviewing during drug injection. Preliminary findings from each of these methods are reported to illustrate the methods' value in elucidating the impact of local and regional social factors on sterile syringe access.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Connecticut / epidemiology
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control
  • Focus Groups
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • Hepatitis, Viral, Human / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Massachusetts / epidemiology
  • Medical Records
  • Needle Sharing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Residence Characteristics*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / virology*