Shooting Galleries, Dope Houses, and Injection Doctors: Examining the Social Ecology of HIV Risk Behaviors Among Drug Injectors in Dayton, Ohio

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2000


The social contexts in which drug injection occurs, the social roles drug injectors assume, and associated risk behaviors for infection with blood-borne pathogens remain inadequately understood. This study is based on over 10 years of ethnographic research among drug injectors in Dayton, Ohio. Specifically, fieldnotes from participant observation and semistructured interviews are used to deconstruct what constitutes a "shooting gallery" from the perspective of drug injectors. In addition, the social role of individuals who inject others for a fee—"injection doctors"—is examined. Results demonstrate that shooting galleries differ significantly from the accepted epidemiological concept which highlights the presence of needle renting—a practice that increases risk for infection with HIV, HBV, and HCV. Results suggest that needle renting did not occur in Dayton's shooting galleries after 1989. Shooting galleries differ significantly across geographic space, thereby suggesting that quantitative studies based on a common definition may be misleading. Because injection doctors assume significant control of the injection process, they should be targeted in AIDS prevention efforts. Ethnographic examination of social roles and the social contexts in which drug injection occurs can complement epidemiological studies and improve AIDS prevention efforts.