Subtypes of Risk in Rural Puerto Rico PWID Communities

Injection drug users are at exceedingly heightened risk for contracting infectious diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV, and risk behaviors associated with drug use and sexual behavior contribute greatly to the prevalence of HIV and HCV in PWID communities. The injection drug user population in Puerto Rico, moreover, has witnessed greater destruction from these diseases than the national average due to increased need and tendency to participate in risky behaviors.

REACH researchers Kirk Dombrowski and Roberto Abadie contributed to a study regarding risk behaviors in rural Puerto Rican PWID social networks. The study was published in September in The Journal of Rural Health. The researchers’ objective was to define subtypes of injection and sexual risk populations within the PWID community and find correlates that could predict which characteristics of PWID would contribute to their membership in specific risk subtypes.

The study was based on the rural Puerto Rican sample used by REACH researchers consisting of 315 injection drug users. Researchers categorized the risk subtypes of PWID by having low risk overall, high injection/low sexual risk, low injection/high sexual risk and high risk overall, based on common risk behavior indicators. The authors of the study demonstrated the findings that “younger age and past year homelessness predicted high-risk latent class membership, relative to the other classes” and “daily speedball use predicted membership in the high injection/low sexual risk class, relative to the low risk and low injection/high sexual risk classes.”

Understanding the risk behaviors of subtype classes of PWID will further assist in evidence-based interventions among the PWID population to prevent poor outcomes of injection drug use in Puerto Rico and the nation.

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