Venous access and care: harnessing pragmatics in harm reduction for people who inject drugs

Addiction. 2012 Jun;107(6):1090-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2011.03749.x. Epub 2012 Feb 13.


Aim: To explore the facilitators of long-term hepatitis C avoidance among people who inject drugs.

Design: We employed a qualitative life history design.

Setting: Recruitment took place through low-threshold drug services and drug user networks in South East and North London. Participants were interviewed at the recruitment services or in their homes.

Participants: The sample comprised 35 people who inject drugs, 20 of whom were hepatitis C antibody-negative. Participants' average injecting trajectory was 19 years (6-33), with 66% primarily injecting heroin, and 34% a crack and heroin mix. Nine (26%) of the sample were female and the average age was 39 years (23-53).

Measurements: Two interviews were conducted with each participant, with the second interview incorporating reference to a computer-constructed life history time-line. Interview accounts were audiorecorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically.

Findings: Hepatitis C risk awareness was recent and deprioritized by the majority of participants. The facilitation of venous access and care was an initial and enduring rationale for safe injecting practices. Difficult venous access resulted in increased contamination of injecting environments and transitions to femoral injecting. Participants expressed an unmet desire for non-judgemental venous access information and advice.

Conclusions: Harm reduction interventions which attend to the immediate priorities of people who inject drugs, such as venous access and care, have the potential to re-engage individuals who are jaded or confused by hepatitis C prevention messages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Female
  • Harm Reduction*
  • Hepatitis C / prevention & control*
  • Hepatitis C / psychology
  • Hepatitis C / transmission
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Peripheral Vascular Diseases / etiology
  • Peripheral Vascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sclerosis / etiology
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / complications*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / psychology
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / rehabilitation
  • Veins / pathology*
  • Young Adult