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Examining unmet needs: a cross-sectional study exploring knowledge, attitudes and sexually transmitted infection screening preferences among persons who inject drugs in Camden, New Jersey


Objectives To inform the development of targeted sexually transmitted infection (STI) control programmes for persons who inject drugs (PWID).

Methods We recruited 116 PWID (aged ≥ 18 years) from a community-based syringe exchange programme (SEP) and assessed their STI knowledge and screening preferences via technology assisted self-interview. We estimated prevalence of STI transmission knowledge, attitudes and screening preferences as well as the association between reported sexual behaviours (past 6 months) and willingness to self-collect specimens.

Results Participants were white (77%), female (51%) and heterosexual (77%). STI knowledge regarding transmission and testing was high among the sample. More than 70% of participants were aware extragenital infections were possible and were least likely to know urine tests do not detect rectal infections (40.9%). Site-specific specimen collection was highly reflective of reported sexual behaviour. PWID who reported receptive sex (36% vs 5%, p<0.01) and insertive anal sex (31% vs 6%, p=0.01) were more likely to collect rectal specimens than those who did not. A similar trend was seen for oral sex performance on men and self-collection of oropharyngeal swabs (15% vs 3%, p=0.04). In addition, participants preferred collecting their own sample to having a clinician collect it for them (69% vs 31%, p<0.01) and testing at the SEP compared with a STI clinic (86% vs 14%, p<0.01).

Conclusion Our findings suggest site-specific specimen collection may be a proxy for risk behaviour engagement in this fairly knowledgeable high-risk population. To increase case finding, STI control programmes should educate patients about site-specific screening and pair outreach with the infrastructure provided by SEPs, in settings where these programmes exist.

  • injecting drug use
  • screening
  • infection control
  • attitudes

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