Healthcare avoidance by people who inject drugs in Bangkok, Thailand

J Public Health (Oxf). 2016 Sep;38(3):e301-e308. doi: 10.1093/pubmed/fdv143. Epub 2015 Oct 20.


Background: Although people who inject drugs (IDU) often contend with various health-related harms, timely access to health care among this population remains low. We sought to identify specific individual, social and structural factors constraining healthcare access among IDU in Bangkok, Thailand.

Methods: Data were derived from a community-recruited sample of IDU participating in the Mitsampan Community Research Project between July and October 2011. We assessed the prevalence and correlates of healthcare avoidance due to one's drug use using multivariate logistic regression.

Results: Among 437 participants, 112 (25.6%) reported avoiding health care because they were IDU. In multivariate analyses, factors independently associated with avoiding health care included having ever been drug tested by police [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 1.80], experienced verbal abuse (AOR = 3.15), been discouraged from engaging in usual family activities (AOR = 3.27), been refused medical care (AOR = 10.90), experienced any barriers to health care (AOR = 4.87) and received healthcare information and support at a drop-in centre (AOR = 1.92) (all P < 0.05).

Conclusions: These findings highlight the need to address the broader policy environment, which perpetuates the criminalization and stigmatization of IDU, and to expand peer-based interventions to facilitate access to health care for IDU in this setting.

Keywords: Thailand; health services utilization; injection drug use; peer-based interventions; stigma and discrimination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / psychology*
  • Thailand / epidemiology