Objective: To investigate patterns of drug use and injection-related risk behaviours among young Indo-Chinese injecting drug users (IDUs).
Method: Cross-sectional survey. A structured questionnaire was administered to 184 Indo-Chinese IDUs aged 15 to 24 in Sydney and Melbourne. Participants were recruited using snowball sampling techniques; measures included patterns of heroin and other drug use, injection-related risk behaviours, perceived susceptibility to HIV and HCV infection and access to services.
Results: Despite perceived high availability of sterile injecting equipment, 36% had ever shared a needle and syringe and 22% had done so in the preceding month. Lifetime sharing was significantly associated with duration of injecting, history of incarceration and residence in Sydney. Sharing of injecting paraphernalia other than needles and syringes was also common, with young women and Sydney residents significantly more likely to report sharing equipment in the preceding month.
Conclusions: Young Indo-Chinese IDUs are at high risk of infection with hepatitis C and other blood-borne viruses. Results indicate an urgent need for culturally appropriate and sustainable risk reduction programs which specifically target this population.
Implications: Health services must respond swiftly to implement effective blood-borne virus prevention programs for young Indo-Chinese IDUs. Failure to do so may sustain the current epidemic of hepatitis C among IDUs.