Substance use & misuse 2017 03 20() 1-8 doi 10.1080/10826084.2016.1268630
Neighborhood-level characteristics, including police activity, are associated with HIV and Hepatitis C injection risk-behaviors among people who inject drugs (PWID). However, the pathways through which these neighborhood perceptions shape individual-level HIV risk behaviors are unclear. This study helps to explain perceived behaviors between perceived neighborhood police activity and HIV injection risk behavior (i.e., injection syringe/tool sharing in the previous 6 months).
A sample of (n = 366) PWIDs who self-reported recent use were recruited using community-based outreach methods in Baltimore, Maryland. Neighborhood police perceptions were assessed by asking participants whether they would (1) be more likely to ask others to share injection tools in the context of heightened police activity and (2) be less likely to carry syringes with them due to fear of arrest. Poisson regression with robust variance was used to identify statistical relationships. Recent police encounters, frequency of heroin injection, and sociodemographic characteristics were controlled for in the model.
Neighborhood police perceptions shaped injection-risk behavior. Half of the sample (49%) reported an aversion of carrying personal syringes, due to fear of arrest. Those who agreed they would be more likely to ask others to share injection equipment in the context of heightened police activity were more likely to share syringes (21% vs. 3%, p <.01). Adjusted models showed that syringe sharing was independently associated with asking to borrow equipment in neighborhoods with perceived heightened police activity (aPR: 2.22, 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.7, 3.0). CONCLUSION
This study sheds light on how police perceptions may influence injection risk behavior. While these relationships require further elucidation, this study suggests that public health interventions aiming to reduce HIV risk would benefit from improving community-police relationships.