Reduction in injection risk behaviors after implementation of a syringe services program, Miami, Florida

J Subst Abuse Treat. 2021 Aug:127:108344. doi: 10.1016/j.jsat.2021.108344. Epub 2021 Mar 3.


Introduction: Syringe services programs (SSPs) are evidence-based HIV prevention programs for people who inject drugs. However, not all SSPs operate evidence-based syringe distribution models, such as needs-based distribution. This study aims to provide preliminary evidence from the IDEA SSP on changes in injection risk behaviors over time, and to examine factors, including syringe coverage, associated with injection risk behavior trajectories over time under a one-for-one syringe distribution model.

Methods: We used a prospective observational study design to generate a cohort of SSP clients who completed three behavioral assessments at SSP service visits between December 2016 and January 2020 (N = 115). The study used generalized estimating equations (GEE) to examine the relationship between covariate measures and the primary outcomes. The primary outcomes were 1) sharing of any injection equipment (e.g. syringes, needles, cookers, cottons) in the previous 30 days (yes/no) and 2) reusing of needles/syringes in the previous 30 days (yes/no).

Results: Men were more likely to report reusing syringes (aRR = 1.15, 95% CI: 1.01-1.37) and those who reported injecting in public were less likely to report reusing syringes (aRR = 0.90, 95% CI: 0.82-0.99). HCV-positive clients had a 62% reduction in sharing injection equipment and those who reported public injection had a 62% increase in sharing injection equipment over time. Most importantly, increasing syringe coverage was associated with a decrease in both sharing injection equipment (aRR = 0.42, 95% CI: 0.25-0.72) and reusing syringes (aRR = 0.79, 95% CI: 0.66-0.95).

Conclusion: This study provides preliminary evidence of reductions in injection-related risk behaviors from the IDEA SSP and highlights potential high priority groups, such as people experiencing homelessness, that may need additional intervention. In addition, improving syringe coverage among SSP clients may be an important factor in reducing behaviors that place individuals at risk for contracting HIV and HCV.

Keywords: HIV/HCV prevention; People who inject drugs; Syringe services program.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Florida
  • HIV Infections* / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Needle Sharing
  • Needle-Exchange Programs
  • Risk-Taking
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous*
  • Syringes