To summarize current research findings on pharmacy nonprescription syringe distribution to prevent the spread of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) among injection drug users (IDUs), including research on pharmacist attitudes and behavior, drug user attitudes and behavior, and the health impact on HIV/AIDS risk behavior.
Data were collected using PubMed and PsycINFO through July 2011. Search terms used were pharmacist or pharmacy and syringe or syringe exchange or needle or needle exchange. Two journals (Journal of Urban Health and Journal of the American Pharmacists Association) with a high number of hits were manually inspected. Reference sections for each article also were examined.
Studies were included if they examined attitudes toward, experiences with, or the impact of pharmacy nonprescription syringe distribution for the purpose of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS among IDUs in the United States. Studies were excluded that mentioned these topics in passing or did not report empirical results.
47 studies were identified that met the inclusion criteria. Studies included a diverse range of perspectives, including pharmacist viewpoints, IDU attitudes, and evaluations.
According to the available literature, many pharmacists express willingness to sell and report selling syringes to customers without a prescription. IDUs show willingness to use pharmacies to obtain syringes. Finally, pharmacy syringe sale and the legalization of this practice appear to have a positive impact on HIV risk behavior. Accordingly, the nonprescription sale of syringe should be promoted. However, the literature remains incomplete and future research is required.