Syringe Acquisition and Use of Syringe Exchange Programs by Puerto Rican Drug Injectors in New York and Puerto Rico: Comparisons Based on Quantitative and Qualitative Methods
ABSTRACT Quantitative and qualitative data are used to compare alternative sources of syringes, including syringe exchange programs (SEPs), accessed by 165 Puerto Rican injection drug users (IDUs) in East Harlem, New York (NY), and 115 in Bayamn, Puerto Rico (PR). IDUs in PR obtained, on average, 45.2% of their syringes from syringe sellers, 18.0% from pharmacies, and 17.6% from a SEP. By contrast, IDUs in NY obtained 55.0% of their syringes from SEPs and 22.9% from syringe sellers. Compared to their island counterparts, IDUs in NY received significantly more syringes from SEPs (NY, 104.5; PR, 9.2) in the prior 30 days, and were more likely to be referred by SEPs to drug treatment and HIV/TB-testing services. The results of this study suggest the need in Puerto Rico to eliminate restrictive syringe exchange policies, reform drug paraphernalia laws to protect SEP clients, and address police harassment related to carrying syringes.