Researchers in the lab recently published a paper examining serosorting habits in rural Puerto Rico. The paper was published in Preventive Medicine Reports earlier this year. Serosorting is using one’s own and questioning others’ HIV or HCV infection status to determine whether to engage in risk or not. In an injection drug use context, serosorting determines the selection and number of people an individual injects with. And because treating HCV infection can be so expensive, injection drug users are often urged by public health officials to be careful about sharing equipment and injecting with partners.
Studies based in the general United States population have found that knowledge of HCV status facilitates serosorting behaviors, leading more people to question potential partners’ status. This study was done to test whether the same would be true in more rural areas that are disconnected from the mainland US.
The team found that in rural Puerto Rico, knowledge of HCV status had no significant effect on selection of recent injection partners. They concluded then that injectors in rural Puerto Rico differ from the broader US population in their serosorting habits. The team urges that this difference should be taken into account in future outreach and intervention strategies.
Limitations to the findings presented here mostly comprise differences in sample size. The Smith et al. study — to which the team compared their rural Puerto Rican data – had a much larger sample, representative of a much larger population. Despite this limitation, the findings presented here are very interesting and the differences found in this rural community are likely to extend to other regions.