How does the use of multiple needles/syringes per injecting episode impact on the measurement of individual level needle and syringe program coverage?

Daniel O'Keefe, Angus McCormack, Shelley Cogger, Campbell Aitken, Lucinda Burns, Raimondo Bruno, Jenny Stafford, Kerryn Butler, Courtney Breen, Paul Dietze

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Background Recent work by McCormack et al. (2016) showed that the inclusion of syringe stockpiling improves the measurement of individual-level syringe coverage. We explored whether including the use of a new parameter, multiple sterile syringes per injecting episode, further improves coverage measures. Methods Data comes from 838 people who inject drugs, interviewed as part of the 2015 Illicit Drug Reporting System. Along with syringe coverage questions, the survey recorded the number of sterile syringes used on average per injecting episode. We constructed three measures of coverage: one adapted from Bluthenthal et al. (2007), the McCormack et al. measure, and a new coverage measure that included use of multiple syringes. Predictors of multiple syringe use and insufficient coverage (<100% of injecting episodes using a sterile syringe) using the new measure, were tested in logistic regression and the ability of the measures to discriminate key risk behaviours was compared using ROC curve analysis. Results 134 (16%) participants reported needing multiple syringes per injecting episode. Women showed significantly increased odds of multiple syringe use, as did those reporting injection related injuries/diseases and injecting of opioid substitution drugs or pharmaceutical opioids. Levels of insufficient coverage across the three measures were substantial (20%–28%). ROC curve analysis suggested that our new measure was no better at discriminating injecting risk behaviours than the existing measures. Conclusion Based on our findings, there appears to be little need for adding a multiple syringe use parameter to existing coverage formulae. Hence, we recommend that multiple syringe use is not included in the measurement of individual-level syringe coverage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-106
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017


  • Harm reduction
  • Injecting drug use
  • Needle and syringe coverage

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