UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Evaluation of a drug user-led safer injecting education campaign Callon, Cody Terry


Background: Unsafe injection practices remain a significant source of morbidity and mortality among people who inject drugs (IDU), this thesis sought to: review the literature outlining the ways in which people inject unsafely, the health consequences associated with unsafe practices, the factors that influence injection practices, and the interventions that have been designed to address these problems; describe a drug user-led safer injecting education campaign; and finally, examine the facilitators’ and participants’ perceptions of a unique user-led intervention. Methods: Qualitative data was derived from semi-structured qualitative interviews conducted with eight members of the Injection Support (IS) Team who developed and facilitated a series of safer injecting education workshops and 20 individuals who participated in these workshops. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and a thematic analysis was conducted. Results: A literature review identified numerous specific unsafe injection practices, which are associated with negative health outcomes, including HIV, hepatitis C, bacterial infections, and venous damage. Research demonstrates that various individual, physical, social, and structural factors influence injection practices, and has identified a number of interventions (e.g. syringe distribution, education) that reduce negative health consequences. Results indicate that IDU typically learn about injecting by watching or sharing experiences with other IDU and that significant gaps in knowledge regarding safer injecting practices persist. Accounts of IDU suggest that the unique process and structure of IS Team workshops enabled effective communication of information about safer injecting practices, while targeting the unsafe practices of workshop participants. Facilitators’ identity as IDU enhanced their ability to relate to workshop participants, most of whom expressed that they prefer user-led interventions to other approaches. Facilitators reported gaining knowledge, skills, and positive feelings about themselves from their involvement in the campaign, while many participants reported that they acquired new knowledge that would alter their future injecting practices. Discussion: The IS Team education campaign focuses on health issues relevant to IDU that are not being adequately addressed by existing public health programs. This study demonstrates the feasibility and benefits of involving IDU in educational initiatives targeting unsafe injecting. Increased involvement of IDU in interventions designed to address unsafe injecting is urgently required.

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