Background: Injection drug user (IDU) experience and perceptions of police practices may alter syringe exchange program (SEP) use or influence risky behaviour. Previously, no community-level data had been collected to identify the prevalence or correlates of police encounters reported by IDUs in the United States.
Methods: New York City IDUs recruited through respondent-driven sampling were asked about past-year police encounters and risk behaviours, as part of the National HIV Behavioural Surveillance study. Data were analysed using multiple logistic regression.
Results: A majority (52%) of respondents (n=514) reported being stopped by police officers; 10% reported syringe confiscation. In multivariate modelling, IDUs reporting police stops were less likely to use SEPs consistently (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=0.59; 95% confidence interval [CI]=0.40-0.89), and IDUs who had syringes confiscated may have been more likely to share syringes (AOR=1.76; 95% CI=0.90-3.44), though the finding did not reach statistical significance.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that police encounters may influence consistent SEP use. The frequency of IDU-police encounters highlights the importance of including contextual and structural measures in infectious disease risk surveillance, and the need to develop approaches harmonizing structural policing and public health.
Keywords: Barriers; Injection drug use; Policing; Public health surveillance; Structural factors; Syringe exchange programs.
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