Should pharmacists have a role in harm reduction services for IDUs? A qualitative study in Tallinn, Estonia

Sigrid Vorobjov, Anneli Uusküla, Katri Abel-Ollo, Ave Talu, Don Des Jarlais

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Despite the high number of injecting drug users (IDUs) in Estonia, little is known about involving pharmacies into human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) prevention activities and potential barriers. Similarly, in other Eastern European countries, there is a need for additional sources for clean syringes besides syringe exchange programmes (SEPs), but data on current practices relating to pharmacists' role in harm reduction strategies is scant. Involving pharmacies is especially important for several reasons: they have extended hours of operation and convenient locations compared to SEPs, may provide access for IDUs who have avoided SEPs, and are a trusted health resource in the community. We conducted a series of focus groups with pharmacists and IDUs in Tallinn, Estonia, to explore their attitudes toward the role of pharmacists in HIV prevention activities for IDUs. Many, but not all, pharmacists reported a readiness to sell syringes to IDUs to help prevent HIV transmission. However, negative attitudes toward IDUs in general and syringe sales to them specifically were identified as important factors restricting such sales. The idea of free distribution of clean syringes or other injecting equipment and disposal of used syringes in pharmacies elicited strong resistance. IDUs stated that pharmacies were convenient for acquiring syringes due to their extended opening hours and local distribution. IDUs were positive toward pharmacies, although they were aware of stigma from pharmacists and other customers. They also emphasized the need for distilled water and other injection paraphernalia. In conclusion, there are no formal or legislative obstacles for providing HIV prevention services for IDUs at pharmacies. Addressing negative attitudes through educational courses and involving pharmacists willing to be public health educators in high drug use areas would improve access for HIV prevention services for IDUs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)918-928
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Volume86
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2009

Keywords

  • Harm reduction services
  • Injecting drug users
  • Pharmacists

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Urban Studies
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Should pharmacists have a role in harm reduction services for IDUs? A qualitative study in Tallinn, Estonia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this