Increased risk of HIV and other drug-related harms associated with injecting in public places: national bio-behavioural survey of people who inject drugs

Kirsten M.A. Trayner, Andrew McAuley, Norah E. Palmateer, David J. Goldberg, Samantha J. Shepherd, Rory N Gunson, Emily J Tweed, Saket Priyadarshi, Catriona Milosevic, Sharon J. Hutchinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
140 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: Whilst injecting drugs in public places is considered a proxy for high risk behaviour among people who inject drugs (PWID), studies quantifying its relationship with multiple drug-related harms are lacking and none have examined this in the context of an ongoing HIV outbreak (located in Glasgow, Scotland). We aimed to: 1) estimate the prevalence of public injecting in Scotland and associated risk factors; and 2) estimate the association between public injecting and HIV, current HCV, overdose, and skin and soft tissue infections (SSTI).

METHODS: Cross-sectional, bio-behavioural survey (including dried blood spot testing to determine HIV and HCV infection) of 1469 current PWID (injected in last 6 months) recruited by independent interviewers from 139 harm reduction services across Scotland during 2017-18. Primary outcomes were: injecting in a public place (yes/no); HIV infection; current HCV infection; self-reported overdose in the last year (yes/no) and SSTI the last year (yes/no). Multi-variable logistic regression was used to determine factors associated with public injecting and to estimate the association between public injecting and drug-related harms (HIV, current HCV, overdose and SSTI).

RESULTS: Prevalence of public injecting was 16% overall in Scotland and 47% in Glasgow city centre. Factors associated with increased odds of public injecting were: recruitment in Glasgow city centre (aOR=5.45, 95% CI 3.48-8.54, p<0.001), homelessness (aOR=3.68, 95% CI 2.61-5.19, p<0.001), high alcohol consumption (aOR=2.42, 95% CI 1.69-3.44, p<0.001), high injection frequency (≥4 per day) (aOR=3.16, 95% CI 1.93-5.18, p<0.001) and cocaine injecting (aOR=1.46, 95% CI 1.00 to 2.13, p = 0.046). Odds were lower for those receiving opiate substitution therapy (OST) (aOR=0.37, 95% CI 0.24 to 0.56, p<0.001) and older age (per year increase) (aOR=0.97, 95% CI 0.95 to 0.99, p = 0.013). Public injecting was associated with an increased risk of HIV infection (aOR=2.11, 95% CI 1.13-3.92, p = 0.019), current HCV infection (aOR=1.49, 95% CI 1.01-2.19, p = 0.043), overdose (aOR=1.59, 95% CI 1.27-2.01, p<0.001) and SSTI (aOR=1.42, 95% CI 1.17-1.73, p<0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: These findings highlight the need to address the additional harms observed among people who inject in public places and provide evidence to inform proposals in the UK and elsewhere to introduce facilities that offer safer drug consumption environments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102663
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Early online date22 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020


  • public injecting
  • drug-related harms
  • HIV
  • harm reduction
  • people who inject drugs
  • Prevalence
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Male
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous
  • Drug Users
  • Scotland/epidemiology
  • Population Density
  • Risk-Taking
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • HIV Infections/epidemiology


Dive into the research topics of 'Increased risk of HIV and other drug-related harms associated with injecting in public places: national bio-behavioural survey of people who inject drugs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this