A stakeholder-driven framework for measuring potential change in the health risks of people who inject drugs (PWID) during the COVID-19 pandemic

Heather Bradley, Chelsea Austin, Sean T. Allen, Alice Asher, Tyler S. Bartholomew, Amy Board, Annick Borquez, Kate Buchacz, Anastasia Carter, Hannah L.F. Cooper, Judith Feinberg, Nathan Furukawa, Becky Genberg, Pamina M. Gorbach, Holly Hagan, Emalie Huriaux, Hermione Hurley, Nicole Luisi, Natasha K. Martin, Eli S. RosenbergSteffanie A. Strathdee, Don C.Des Jarlais

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: People who inject drugs (PWID) have likely borne disproportionate health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. PWID experienced both interruptions and changes to drug supply and delivery modes of harm reduction, treatment, and other medical services, leading to potentially increased risks for HIV, hepatitis C virus (HCV), and overdose. Given surveillance and research disruptions, proximal, indirect indicators of infectious diseases and overdose should be developed for timely measurement of health effects of the pandemic on PWID. Methods: We used group concept mapping and a systems thinking approach to produce an expert stakeholder-generated, multi-level framework for monitoring changes in PWID health outcomes potentially attributable to COVID-19 in the U.S. This socio-ecological measurement framework elucidates proximal and distal contributors to infectious disease and overdose outcomes, many of which can be measured using existing data sources. Results: The framework includes multi-level components including policy considerations, drug supply/distribution systems, the service delivery landscape, network factors, and individual characteristics such as mental and general health status and service utilization. These components are generally mediated by substance use and sexual behavioral factors to cause changes in incidence of HIV, HCV, sexually transmitted infections, wound/skin infections, and overdose. Conclusion: This measurement framework is intended to increase the quality and timeliness of research on the impacts of COVID-19 in the context of the current pandemic and future crises. Next steps include a ranking process to narrow the drivers of change in health risks to a concise set of indicators that adequately represent framework components, can be written as measurable indicators, and are quantifiable using existing data sources, as well as a publicly available web-based platform for summary data contributions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103889
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • COVID-19
  • HIV
  • Hepatitis C
  • Overdose
  • People who inject drugs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Health Policy


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