People who inject drugs (PWIDs) are a socially vulnerable population and are exposed to risk factors including unstable housing and underlying medical conditions such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), tuberculosis (TB), and viral hepatitis that put them at increased risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms, including death. PWIDs also experience barriers such as a history of stigmatization and discrimination by health care systems and exposure to misinformation about testing that reduces access to health care services and testing. Because timely receipt of services relative to symptoms onset is critical for positive health outcomes and to reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission, lack of testing has significant implications for PWID, highlighting an urgent need to increase testing uptake among this population. Despite this, PWIDs have been an underserved population in the context of the current pandemic; thus, little is known about the prevalence of COVID-19 and the acceptability and possible reach of testing for COVID-19 among PWIDs. To address this gap, this study leverages a current partnership with HIV Alliance (HIVA) in Oregon and our Community and Scientific Advisory Board to support implementation and sustainability of a COVID-19 testing program. Specifically, we will use community-based participatory approaches to develop, implement, and evaluate a COVID-19 testing program offered through HIVA?s Syringe Services Programs (SSP), a natural point of care for PWIDs. Moreover, SSPs may offer a natural venue for dissemination and delivery of a vaccine, once available. The COVID-19 testing program will include procedures for sample collection, transmission of specimens to the University of Oregon CLIA-certified laboratory, and results reporting.
For aim 1, we will assess the testing program utilization.
For aim 2, we will develop and test a brief motivational enhancement intervention to optimize testing utilization among PWIDs. Using an interrupted time series design, we will evaluate intervention effects on utilization of COVID-19 testing resources.
For aim 3, we will collect data from syringe exchange staff and key volunteers on program acceptability, feasibility, appropriateness, adoption, and implementation barriers and facilitators related to the testing program and intervention. The current project has the potential to enhance COVID-19 testing access and reach among a significantly underserved population who experience multiple risks that make it difficult to prevent SARS-CoV-2 exposure and transmission and who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms, if they were to contract the disease.

Public Health Relevance

This study leverages a current partnership with HIV Alliance ? an Oregon-based nonprofit dedicated to supporting individuals living with HIV/AIDS and preventing new HIV infections ? to embed a COVID-19 testing program with a brief motivational enhancement intervention in their Syringe Services Programs (SSPs). SSPs offer a natural venue for testing as well as vaccination, when available, for people who inject drugs. This project has the potential to enhance COVID-19 testing access and reach for a significantly underserved population that is vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 transmission and who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZMD1)
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Crump, Aria
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University of Oregon
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United States
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