Geographic distribution of risk ("Hotspots") for HIV, HCV, and drug overdose among persons who use drugs in New York City: The importance of local history

D. C. Des Jarlais, C. McKnight, K. Arasteh, J. Feelemyer, Zev Ross, H. L.F. Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims: To identify geographic "hotspots" for potential transmission of HIV and HCV and for drug overdose among persons who use heroin and cocaine in New York City and to examine historical continuities in problem drug use hotspots in the city. Methods: A total of 2714 study participants were recruited among persons entering Beth Israel substance use treatment programs. A structured questionnaire was administered and blood samples for HIV and HCV testing were collected. Hotspots for potential virus transmission were defined as ZIP codes with 10+ participants, 2+ persons infected with the virus and engaging in transmission behavior, and 2+ persons not infected and engaging in acquisition behavior. ZIP codes with 3+ persons with previous overdoses were considered potential hotspots for future overdoses. Results: Participants resided in 166/178 (93%) of the ZIP codes in New York City. Injecting drug use was reported in 150/178 (84%) of the ZIP codes. No zip codes were identified for injecting-related HIV transmission, 5 zip codes were identified for sexual HIV transmission, 3 for HCV transmission, and 8 for drug overdose. Many of the ZIP code potential hotspots were in neighborhoods long associated with drug use: Lower Eastside and Harlem in Manhattan, the South Bronx, and Central Brooklyn. Discussion: Heroin and cocaine use requiring treatment were reported from almost all ZIP codes in New York City, indicating needs for widely dispersed harm reduction services. Identified hotspots should be targeted for reducing sexual transmission of HIV, transmission of HCV, and drug overdoses. Some of the hotspots have persisted as problem drug use areas for 40 to over 100 years. Monitoring of drug use patterns in historical hotspot neighborhoods may permit early identification of and response to emerging drug use-related health problems. Persistent historical hotspots for problem drug use present a complex problem for implementing harm reduction services that deserve additional research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number53
JournalHarm Reduction Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 2 2019


  • Geospatial analysis
  • HIV
  • Herpes simplex II
  • New York City
  • Persons who use drugs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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