Attitudes Toward Needle "Sharing" Among Injection Drug Users: Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods

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Ethnographers working with injection drug users in U.S. AIDS prevention projects have found that these drug users generally prefer not to use each other's needles and do not conceive of needle "sharing" (transfer) as a key dimension of their identity. To date, these findings have been based primarily on qualitative ethnographic methods. We operationalized injection drug users' values toward needle transfer and administered a questionnaire to 276 active drug injectors recruited in 1993 for the Dayton/Columbus, Ohio, AIDS Prevention Research Project. About 71% of the sample were African American, 28.6% were white, and 77.9% were male. The results generally confirm the qualitative evidence. For example, 96% disagreed with the statement: "When shooting up with other people, I feel like I have to use the same outfit everyone else uses." Only 16.3% perceived new needles were inaccessible, while 72.8% feared carrying needles because of drug paraphernalia laws. This study demonstrates the value of combining qualitative and quantitative methods in AIDS prevention research.


An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Second Symposium on Drugs, Sex, AIDS: Prevention Research, Flagstaff, AZ, August 31-September 2, 1994.

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