Implementation of a syringe services program (SSP) resulted in rapid reduction in injection-related risk behaviors during a 2014 HIV outbreak among persons who inject drugs (PWID) in a nonurban setting in the United States, according to a recent study. The results emphasize the need for harm reduction interventions that include access to syringes and sterile injection equipment, in addition to comprehensive HIV prevention services.

Researchers investigated the late 2014 HIV outbreak in Scott County, Indiana, which happened to be the largest outbreak among PWID in a nonurban setting in the US with 181 HIV infections diagnosed between Nov. 18, 2018–Nov. 1, 2015. The SSP resulted in a rapid reduction in injection-related risk behaviors, including an 88% reduction in syringe sharing, a 79% reduction in syringe sharing to divide drugs and an 81% reduction in sharing of other injection equipment, findings that are consistent with SSPs implemented in nonoutbreak settings.

“In Scott County, this has been a really effective model for getting people who are ready for treatment into an effective treatment program, and more than 200 individuals have enrolled in treatment since it was initiated,” Joan Duwve, MD, MPH, Associate Dean for Practice, IU Fairbanks School of Public Health, told MD Mag. “When the community also participates by offering meals, clothing, support groups and other services needed, the added effect is considerable. People with substance use disorder are often stigmatized and living on the fringes of society. These programs send the message that their lives have value, and help lead them toward recovery.”

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