Links between AIDS and self-injection of drugs were first recognized more than 20 years ago, but identification of a specific pathogen and ways to neutralize it has not led to complete success in preventing transmission of HIV-1 infection among injecting drug users (IDUs). A street ethnographer identified active risk locales (places where IDUs go to inject drugs) and recruited their proprietors into a study of contaminated injection paraphernalia. Collected paraphernalia from locales were analyzed for contamination by HIV-1 using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Proprietors and clientele of 16 risk locales participated by contributing used paraphernalia and/or agreeing to a blood test (0.5-1 mL drawn by finger stick). Real-time PCR was the primary measure used to determine contamination of injection paraphernalia and blood samples with HIV-1. Of 130 samples collected at baseline, a total of 8 were found to have evidence of HIV-1 contamination by detection of either HIV-1 RNA or DNA. The most serious contamination (up to 600,000 copies per milliliter) was found in ancillary paraphernalia, rather than needle/syringe (N/S) specimens. Only 4 of 74 N/S specimens had any evidence of HIV-1 contamination at all (with very low viral loads), and none had both HIV-1 DNA and RNA. Although IDUs in risk locales in Miami/Dade appear to be taking care of their N/S with regard to contamination by HIV-1, important evidence of contamination in ancillary paraphernalia, especially cookers and cottons, indicates that IDUs may still incur serious risk regardless of how well they care for their N/S. Our observations indicated that IDUs rinsed their N/S before returning them to the proprietors, from whom we eventually collected them, and this rinsing would have masked the contamination to which they were exposed through use of unrinsed cookers and reused cottons.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases