To describe injection drug users (IDUs) who access syringes through different outlets to help inform the prevention needs of IDUs who underuse safe syringe sources in New York City (NYC), where syringe availability is high compared with other U.S. cities.
Participants were recruited using random street-intercept sampling in 36 socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Main outcome measures
IDUs using syringe exchange programs (SEPs), pharmacies, or other outlets as a primary syringe source were compared based on sociodemographic characteristics, injection practices, and medical service use.
Chi-square tests and polytomous logistic regression were used to compare IDUs with different self-reported primary syringe sources used in the 6 months preceding study entry. Compared with IDUs using other syringe sources, those primarily using SEPs were less likely to be black (adjusted odds ratio 0.26 [95% CI 0.11–0.57]), more likely to inject daily (3.32 [1.58–6.98]), and more likely to inject with a new syringe (2.68 [1.30–5.54]). Compared with IDUs using other syringe sources, those primarily using pharmacies were less likely to be black (0.39 [0.17–0.90]).
These data suggest that pharmacies and SEPs may be reaching different populations of IDUs and highlight a subpopulation of highly marginalized IDUs (i.e., black race, infrequent injectors) who are underusing safe syringe sources in NYC. Targeted interventions are needed to reduce racial disparities and increase use of safe syringe outlets.