The aim of this study was to compare demographic and drug use profiles of non-needle and syringe programmes (NSP) attendees with NSP attendees from the same geographic area. Two data sources were used. One was from an annual national survey of injecting drug users (IDU) at NSP and analysis was restricted to survey sites in Kings Cross and Kogarah in 2003 (NSP survey). The other was from a survey of IDU who do not use NSP as their primary source of injecting equipment within the same broad geographical region (Access survey). Of the total 264 survey participants, 102 had never attended a NSP (non-NSP attendees) and 162 had previous experience of NSP (NSP attendees). Compared with NSP attendees, non-NSP attendees were less likely to report severe drug problems and more likely to report lower prevalence of HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C infection. Nevertheless, about 20% of non-NSP attendees reported re-use of needles and syringes after someone else in the previous month. Compared to NSP attendees, a lower rate of usage of health services was reported by non-NSP attendees. Strategies to promote access to NSP and harm reduction services, including testing for blood-borne viruses, information provision and consideration of referral to treatment among non-NSP attendees are recommended.