Background: Although medically supervised safer injecting facilities (SIFs) remain untested in North America, their implementation is currently being debated. Reluctance of health policy makers to initiate a pilot study of SIFs may in part be hindered by outstanding questions regarding the potential community and public health impact of the intervention. Specifically, it is presently unknown if those at greatest risk of overdose and HIV transmission or those responsible for community impact of injection drug use will be willing to attend.
Methods: The current study was conducted to evaluate the proportion of injection drug users (IDU) willing to attend medically supervised SIFs, if they were available, among participants enrolled in the Vancouver Injection Drug User Study (VIDUS). The authors also evaluated factors associated with willingness to use a SIF using univariate and logistic regression analyses. Participants who were followed from June 2001 to June 2002 were eligible for the present analyses.
Results: Overall, 587 active IDU responded to a questionnaire during the study period. Among respondents, 215 (36.6%) expressed willingness to attend a SIF. Variables that were independently associated with willingness to attend a SIF in multivariate analyses included having difficulty accessing sterile syringes (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 2.07), requiring help injecting (AOR = 1.52), frequently injecting heroin (AOR = 1.81), sex trade work (AOR = 2.02), and injecting in public spaces (AOR = 2.00).
Conclusions: Several variables that have recently been associated with overdose, syringe sharing, HIV and HCV incidence, and community impact of illicit drug use in this setting were associated with willingness to attend medically supervised SIFs. Although the impact of SIFs in North America can only be quantified by scientific evaluation, these data indicate a high potential for immediate community and public health benefits if SIFs were presently available.