Background and objective: People who inject drugs (PWID) account for over half of new HIV infections in Eastern Europe and central Asia, where opioids continue to be the dominant illicit drugs injected. Stimulants including amphetamines (ATS) have been associated with HIV infection risk in several settings. We sought to examine whether primary ATS injection was associated with greater HIV risk, compared to opioid injection in two European locales with significant HIV epidemics.
Methods: PWID in Kohtla-Järve and St. Petersburg were recruited using respondent-driven sampling in 2012-2013. Survey data on demographic characteristics, service use, injecting and sexual risk behaviours and HIV-status (and HCV in Kohtla-Järve) were compared between primary opioid and ATS injectors using logistic regression models.
Results: Of 591 injectors recruited in Kohtla-Järve and 811 in St. Petersburg, 195 (33%) and 27 (4%) primarily injected ATS in each city. In both cities, ATS injectors were younger than opioid injectors, initiated injection later, injected less frequently and were more likely to have been paid for sex. In both cities, PWID had high levels of multiple sex partners. In Kohtla-Järve, ATS-injectors had lower odds of back-loading and greater odds of polydrug use than opioid-injectors. In St. Petersburg, where over half of PWID reported unsafe sharing practices, ATS-injectors were less likely to report these practices. ATS-injection was negatively associated with being HIV positive in Kohtla-Järve (aOR = 0.6; 95%CI: 0.5-0.8) and St. Petersburg (aOR = 0.3; 95%CI: 0.1-0.7). ATS-injection was negatively associated with HCV-reactivity in Kohtla-Järve (aOR = 0.5; 95%CI: 0.3-0.6).
Conclusions: In both locations, primary ATS injection was associated with lower injecting risk behaviours, lower odds of HIV and being paid for sex compared to opioid injection. Interventions targeting the characteristics and needs of ATS injectors are needed to increase contact with services and reduce sexual and injecting risk. Harm reduction services, including sexual risk reduction, need to be expanded for all PWID in St. Petersburg.
Keywords: Amphetamine injection; HIV; Hepatitis C; Herpes simplex virus; Opioid injection; PWID; Polydrug use; Respondent-driven sampling; Risk behaviours.
Copyright © 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.