The prevalence and incidence of sexually transmitted infections in a prospective cohort of injection drug users in Vancouver, British Columbia

Can J Infect Dis Med Microbiol. 2005 Jul;16(4):225-9. doi: 10.1155/2005/617326.


Background: While several studies have reported on sexual risk behaviours and the prevalence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among injection drug users (IDUs), there are fewer prospective studies that have been able to examine populations of IDUs with no history of STIs. Therefore, the authors examined prevalence, correlates and factors associated with time to first STI infection in a prospective cohort of IDUs in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Methods: The authors examined the prevalence and correlates of STIs among IDUs at the time of recruitment into a prospective cohort study. The authors also evaluated the cumulative rate of time to first STI among IDUs with no history of STIs at baseline using the Kaplan-Meier method, and modelled factors independently associated with first STI using Cox regression.

Results: Between May 1996 and November 2003, 1560 individuals were recruited into the cohort; of these individuals, 745 reported a history of STI at baseline. Among the 815 who did not report an STI at baseline, 671 (82%) had at least one follow-up visit and were eligible for the analysis of time to first STI. After 36 months of follow-up, the cumulative rate of first STI was 8.2% for men and 15.9% for women (log-rank P<0.001), whereas the cumulative rate of first STI was 8.0% for IDUs who did not report sex trade involvement versus 19.8% for IDUs who reported sex trade involvement (log-rank P<0.001). In multivariate analyses, the risk of first STI remained independently associated with unprotected sex with regular partners (relative hazard=2.04, 95% CI 1.29 to 3.23; P=0.001) and unprotected sex with sex trade clients (relative hazard=2.36, 95% CI 1.46 to 3.82; P=0.005).

Conclusions: In the present study, the authors found that STIs were associated with both regular sex partnerships and sex trade involvement. These findings are of particular concern because both unprotected sex with regular partners and sex trade involvement is common among IDUs. Interventions to encourage condom use among IDUs, particularly those with regular sex partners and those involved in the sex trade, should be further developed.

Keywords: IDU; Prospective cohort; STI.