Needle exchange use among a cohort of injecting drug users

Ellie E. Schoenbaum, Diana M. Hartel, Marc N. Gourevitch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To study prospectively injection behavior of injecting drug users (IDU) who did and did not utilize a local needle exchange in the Bronx, New York City. Design: Since 1985, IDU attending a methadone maintenance program have been enrolled in a prospective study of HIV-related risk behaviors. Since 1989, when a needle exchange opened near the methadone program, data have been collected from study participants regarding utilization of the exchange. Participants: Study participants (n = 904) who injected between 1985 and 1993. Results: Of 904 IDU, 21.9% used the needle exchange. Male gender [adjusted odds ratio (AOR), 1.57], HIV seropositivity (AOR, 1.39) and younger age (AOR per 10 years of age, 1.66) were independently associated with needle exchange attendance. The percentage injecting declined each year, preceding the opening of the needle exchange and concurrent with its operation (from 64.6% in 1985 to 43.6% in 1993). Among the 329 participants who injected in the year before the exchange opened, 1988, 53 out of 124 (42.7%) needle exchange users and 168 out of 205 (81.9%) non-users reduced or stopped injecting by 1993 (P < 0.001). Exchange users shared needles less than non-users (P < 0.05 in 1993). HIV infection was unrelated to these reductions in injection. Conclusions: Methadone-treated IDU with access to a needle exchange reduced injecting and needle-sharing. This pattern of harm reduction, which began at least 4 years before the needle exchange opened, occurred in both those who did and did not utilize the needle exchange. Needle exchange, as a strategy to reduce injection-related harm, should not be viewed as discordant with methadone treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1729-1734
Number of pages6
Issue number14
StatePublished - 1996


  • Cohort study
  • Drug users
  • Epidemiology
  • HIV
  • Needle exchange

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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