BACKGROUND: Data on Internet utilization is needed, particularly during a time when in-person services are limited or only available virtually. The purpose of this study was to identify characteristics of Internet use among persons who use drugs and assess adoption of an interactive, risk reduction informational website – WebHealth4Us.
METHODS: Participant recruitment occurred in pharmacies participating in the New York State pharmacy syringe access program (n = 209). ACASI surveys were conducted on-site to ascertain Internet use and related sociodemographics and risk behaviors. Internet users (use >/= once/month) were shown a website WebHealth4Us highlighting social services and risk reduction information on four topic areas: mental health, HIV, HCV, and other STI; users could also sign-up for weekly text messages for any topic area. Follow-up ACASI occurred at four weeks to assess user experiences and website adoption.
RESULTS: Study sample (n = 196) was mostly male (60%), average age 46, black/Latinx (76%), had a history of incarceration (79%), and reported past/current injection (53%) or non-injection (51%) drug use. Internet use was high (79%), accessed >4 times/week (60%) most commonly for: housing (61%), health issues (54%), and drug treatment (45%). Over one-third accessed WebHealth4Us during follow-up, and 35% of those opted for weekly text messages (mental health most common topic selected). After adjustment, younger age (AOR = 0.96) and alcohol use (AOR = 2.26) predicted WebHealth4Us access.
CONCLUSION: Internet use was high with considerable WebHealth4Us access, and specifically for mental health needs. Web-based interventions warrant large-scale investigation in high-risk communities, prioritizing social determinants and behavioral health.
Internet use and uptake of a web-based prevention and risk reduction intervention for persons who use drugs in New York City – WebHealth4Us Study (2013-2016)
Substance Abuse, 43 (1), 1119-1126. doi: 10.1080/08897077.2022.2028701.