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Needle sharing has long been recognized as a primary route of HIV infection. However, recent research has shown that HIV antibody is also detectable in injection supplies other than needles. In this study we tested frequency of attendance at a Providence, Rhode Island, needle exchange program (NEP) as a correlate of injection risk indicators including not just sharing needles but also sharing cookers, sharing cotton filters, cleaning the skin before injecting, and using bleach as a needle disinfectant. Results showed that drug users who attended the NEP less frequently were more likely to report needle sharing, less likely to report always cleaning their skin, and more likely to report sharing cookers. The Providence NEP is one at which alcohol swabs and cookers are distributed along with clean needles. Our results suggest that NEPs represent a valuable and underexploited opportunity to promote risk reduction efforts beyond the avoidance of needle sharing. NEPs should be distributing risk reduction supplies in addition to clean needles and should adopt strategies (e.g., outreach and more days/hours of operation) to encourage frequent attendance.

Originally published in: AIDS Education and Prevention, v. 13, no. 1, February 2001, pp. 78-90.

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