BACKGROUND: People who inject drugs (PWID) lag behind other key populations in HIV care continuum outcomes. The impacts of criminal justice reform and increasing drug treatment access on HIV have been underexplored.
METHODS: We developed agent-based models (ABM) of sexual partnerships among PWID and non-PWID, and injection equipment-sharing partnerships among PWID in five US cities (Baltimore, Boston, Miami, New York City, San Francisco) over 3 years. The first set of ABM projected changes in partnership discordance among PWID as a function of decreasing ZIP code-level incarceration rates. The second set projected discordance as a function of increasing ZIP code-level drug treatment access. ABM were parameterized and validated overall, and by city and PWID race/ethnicity (Black, Latino, White) using National HIV Behavioral Surveillance data, administrative ZIP code-level data, surveillance reports and prior literature. Informed by research on prisoner release and community-level HIV prevalence, reductions in incarceration rates were fixed at 5% and 30% and respectively projected to increase ZIP code-level HIV prevalence by 2% and 12%. Increases in drug treatment access were fixed at 30% and 58%.
RESULTS: In each city, a 30% reduction in ZIP code-level incarceration rates and 12% increase in ZIP code-level HIV prevalence significantly increased sero-discordance among at least one racial/ethnic group of PWID by 1-3 percentage points. A 5% reduction in incarceration rates, and 30% and 58% increases in drug treatment access, led to isolated significant changes in sero-discordance among Black and White PWID that were less than 1 percentage point.
CONCLUSION: Reductions in incarceration rates may lead to short-term increases in sero-discordant partnerships among some PWID by increasing community-level HIV prevalence. Efforts to increase HIV testing, engagement in care and community reintegration post release, should be strengthened in the wake of incarceration reform. Additional research should confirm these findings and explore the lack of widespread impacts of drug treatment in this study.
An application of agent-based modeling to explore the impact of decreasing incarceration rates and increasing drug treatment access on sero-discordant partnerships among people who inject drugs
International Journal of Drug Policy, 94, 103194. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2021.103194.