Drug scene roles and HIV risk

Samuel R. Friedman, R. Terry Furst, Benny Jose, Richard Curtis, Alan Neaigus, Don C. Des Jarlais, Marjorie F. Goldstein, Gilbert Ildefonso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims. Drug scenes (social and spatial drug-using and drug-selling environments) have complex role structures. Many drug injectors earn money or drugs as drug or syringe sellers, hit doctors (people who help others to inject) commercial sex workers, or in other roles. This paper aims to measure 'role behaviors' of drug injectors; describe which drug injectors are more likely to engage in such role behaviors; and to determine whether roles are related to elements of HIV risk. Design. Cross-sectional study of drug injectors. Setting. Bushwick, a section of Brooklyn, New York, a major location for injection drug use and drug sales. Participants. Seven hundred and sixty-seven street-recruited drug injectors. Measurements. Participants were interviewed about their roles, behaviors, socio-demographics and risk networks; sera were collected and assayed for HIV and hepatitis B core antibody. Findings. Socio-demographic variables are related to role-holding in complex ways. Economic need is generally associated with engaging in drug-scene role behaviors. Holders of these roles are at greater behavioral and network risk for HIV and other blood-borne infections than are other drug injectors. They also engage in extensive communication with other drug users, including discussion of HIV risk reduction. Conclusion. Role behaviors can be measured in quantitative studies, and seem to be related to HIV risk. Role-holders may be strategic targets for risk-reduction campaigns. It seems feasible and advisable to measure drug scene role-holding in research on drug users.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1403-1416
Number of pages14
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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