Risk behaviours and viral infections among drug injecting migrants from the former Soviet Union in Germany: Results from the DRUCK-study

Int J Drug Policy. 2018 Sep;59:54-62. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2018.06.011. Epub 2018 Jul 11.


Background: High prevalence of drug use and injection-related risk behaviours have been reported among former Soviet Union (FSU)-migrants. To investigate hepatitis C (HCV) and HIV seroprevalence and related risk behaviours in this subgroup in Germany, we compared first generation FSU-migrants and native Germans using data from a sero-behavioural survey of people who inject drugs (PWID).

Methods: Current injectors were recruited using respondent-driven sampling in eight German cities in 2011-2014. Questionnaire-based interviews were conducted and dried blood spots collected and tested for anti-HCV, HCV-RNA, and anti-HIV1/2. Descriptive and multivariable analyses (MVA) were performed.

Results: A total of 208 FSU-born and 1318 native German PWID were included in the analysis. FSU-migrants were younger than Germans (median age: 33 vs. 39 years), and more often male (83.1% vs. 75.9%, p = 0.022). HCV seroprevalence was 74.5% in FSU-migrants vs. 64.6% in Germans (p = 0.006), HIV seroprevalence was 5.8% and 4.6%, respectively (p = 0.443). The proportion of FSU-migrants reporting injecting-related risk behaviours was higher than among Germans: injecting daily (39.4% vs. 30.2%, p = 0.015), with friends (39.2% vs. 31.2%, p = 0.038), cocaine (32.7% vs. 23.8%, p = 0.044), more than one drug (18.2% vs. 9.6%, p = 0.006), and sharing filters/cookers (35.5% vs. 28.0%, p = 0.045). No statistically significant differences were observed in HIV/HCV testing rates (range: 50.7%-65.6%), opioid substitution treatment (43.9% vs. 50.5%), and access to clean needles/syringes (89.8% vs. 90.3%). In MVA, risk for HCV-infection was increased in male FSU-migrants compared to German males (OR 3.32, p = 0.006), no difference was identified between female FSU-migrants and German females (OR: 0.83, p = 0.633).

Conclusion: Male FSU-migrants were at highest risk of being HCV infected. Therefore, targeted actions are needed to ensure access and acceptance of harm reduction measures, including HCV-testing and -treatment for this subpopulation of PWID.

Keywords: Current injectors; Former Soviet Union; Germany; HIV; Hepatitis C; Migrants; PWID; People who inject drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology*
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • HIV Seroprevalence
  • Hepatitis C / epidemiology*
  • Hepatitis C / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Needle Sharing
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Seroepidemiologic Studies
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / epidemiology*
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous / virology*
  • Transients and Migrants / psychology
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • USSR / ethnology
  • Young Adult