Reducing human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection rates in persons who inject drugs (PWID) has been one of the major successes in HIV prevention in the United States. Estimated HIV incidence among PWID declined by approximately 80% during 1990-2006 (1). More recent data indicate that further reductions in HIV incidence are occurring in multiple areas (2). Research results for the effectiveness of risk reduction programs in preventing hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among PWID (3) have not been as consistent as they have been for HIV; however, a marked decline in the incidence of HCV infection occurred during 1992-2005 in selected U.S. locations when targeted risk reduction efforts for the prevention of HIV were implemented (4). Because syringe service programs (SSPs)* have been one effective component of these risk reduction efforts for PWID (5), and because at least half of PWID are estimated to live outside major urban areas (6), a study was undertaken to characterize the current status of SSPs in the United States and determine whether urban, suburban, and rural SSPs differed. Data from a recent survey of SSPs (dagger) were analyzed to describe program characteristics (e.g., size, clients, and services), which were then compared by urban, suburban, and rural location. Substantially fewer SSPs were located in rural and suburban than in urban areas, and harm reduction services (section sign) were less available to PWID outside urban settings. Because increases in substance abuse treatment admissions for drug injection have been observed concurrently with increases in reported cases of acute HCV infection in rural and suburban areas (7), state and local jurisdictions could consider extending effective prevention programs, including SSPs, to populations of PWID in rural and suburban areas.
Syringe service programs for persons who inject drugs in urban, suburban, and rural areas – United States, 2013