Laws prohibiting over-the-counter syringe sales to injection drug users: relations to population density, HIV prevalence, and HIV incidence

Am J Public Health. 2001 May;91(5):791-3. doi: 10.2105/ajph.91.5.791.


Objectives: This study sought to assess relations of laws prohibiting over-the-counter syringe sales (anti-OTC laws) to population prevalence of injection drug users and HIV prevalence or incidence among 96 US metropolitan areas.

Methods: A cross-sectional analysis was used.

Results: Metropolitan areas with anti-OTC laws had a higher mean HIV prevalence (13.8% vs 6.7%) than other metropolitan areas (pseudo-P < .001). In 83 metropolitan areas with HIV prevalence of less than 20%, anti-OTC laws were associated with HIV incidence rates of 1% or greater (pseudo-P < .001). Population proportions of injection drug users did not vary by presence of anti-OTC laws.

Conclusions: Anti-OTC laws are not associated with lower population proportions of injection drug users. Laws restricting syringe access are associated with HIV transmission and should be repealed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Commerce / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Drug and Narcotic Control / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Homosexuality, Male / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Population Density
  • Prevalence
  • Risk
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / virology*
  • Syringes / economics
  • Syringes / supply & distribution*
  • United States / epidemiology