Substance use & misuse 2017 04 2152(11) 1420-1428 doi 10.1080/10826084.2017.1284235
Access to sterile syringes to injecting drug users (IDU) reduces sharing behavior and prevents the transmission of HIV.
To describe the barriers to access to sterile syringes for IDUs in Lebanon from the perspectives of pharmacists and IDUs.
in this qualitative study conducted in Lebanon, data were collected from 72 syringe purchase tests at pharmacies, 64 interviewees with pharmacists and 2 focus groups with injecting drug users. Two independent researchers analyzed the verbatim transcripts.
Results revealed that pharmacists often deny access to sterile syringes to IDUs who are frequently stigmatized and intimidated at pharmacies. While no large gender differences in pharmacists’ attitudes and practices were observed, inequalities in syringe access were noticed with men IDUs more often denied purchase. Pharmacists had several barriers to sell syringes to IDUs including fear of disease spread, increased drug use, inappropriately discarded syringes, staff and customer safety, and business concerns. IDUs had several challenges to purchase syringes including stigmatization, intimidation, physical harassment, concern to reveal identity, fear of arrest and syringe price abuse.
Identifying the barriers to and facilitators of access to sterile syringes to IDUs is important to guide the development of efficient policies. Findings implicate the importance of empowering IDUs to purchase syringes at pharmacies through reducing the negative attitude towards IDUs and strengthening pharmacists’ role in the promotion of health of IDUs. Findings also suggest that the habit of syringe sharing would decrease if the legal and cultural barriers to access are reduced.