Secondary Needle Exchange

Over the past few months, I have received a number of requests for a study undertaken during 2008 in which I investigated secondary needle exchange in Leeds (UK).  It appears that this continues to be an area of interest.  Copies of this study are available [free of charge] and requests can be made at the bottom of this page. Following is a summary of this research.

‘An Exploratory Study of the Role of Social Networks in Accessing Injecting Equipment and the Implications for Harm Reduction Interventions.’


Objective: Tackling the transmission of blood-borne viruses by ensuring access to sterile injecting equipment is both a public health priority and strategic government target in the U.K.    In Leeds, needle exchange services provide sterile injecting equipment through pharmacies and specialist harm reduction services. This study draws upon contextual data to provide an insight into accessibility of existing needle exchange services, risk behaviour, social surveillance and the role of social networks in enabling access to a hidden population of injecting drug and steroid users. The implications for harm reduction interventions that target IDUs in terms of affording anonymity, convenience and ease of access is discussed.

Methods: Qualitative data were collected using a semi- structured interview schedule and then analysed thematically. IDUs from specific sub-groups were interviewed to gain insight into the networks that they belonged to and evaluate the level of access to injecting equipment as well as the existence of secondary needle exchange networks. A maximum variation approach was employed in order to assess a broad an array of narratives from each of the participant’s as possible. This approach employed a convenience sampling method where willing participants were recruited from attendees at the static specialist harm reduction services in addition to the needle exchange vans that provide outreach services across the city.

Results: The findings of this study identify the difficulties that both the participants and other IDUs in their networks experience in terms of accessing needle exchange services due to operating times, location and issues of social surveillance. A key finding that distinguishes this research from other studies is the secondary provision of injecting equipment to a hidden networks.

Below are the slides from the presentation of this research paper given at the National Conference on Injecting Drug Use in Glasgow (2009)



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Categories: Research

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