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Preliminary indications of the burden of COVID-19 among people who inject drugs in England and Northern Ireland and the impact on access to health and harm reduction services

Croxford, S, Emanuel, E, Ibitoye, A, Njoroge, J, Edmundson, C, Bardsley, M, Heinsbroek, E, Hope, V and Phipps, E Preliminary indications of the burden of COVID-19 among people who inject drugs in England and Northern Ireland and the impact on access to health and harm reduction services. Public Health. ISSN 0033-3506 (Accepted)

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Abstract

Objective: To describe the impact of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic on people who inject drugs (PWID) in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Study design: Cross-sectional unlinked anonymous monitoring (UAM) Survey of PWID Methods: People who had ever injected psychoactive drugs were recruited to the UAM Survey by specialist drug/alcohol services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. From June
2020, in addition to providing a dried blood spot sample and completing the UAM behavioural questionnaire, participants were asked to complete an enhanced coronavirus disease (COVID-19) questionnaire. Preliminary data are presented to the end of October and were compared to data from the 2019 UAM Survey, where possible. Results: Between June and October, 288 PWID were recruited from England and Northern Ireland. One in nine (11%; 29/260) PWID reported testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Fifteen percent (26/169) reported injecting more frequently in 2020 compared to 2019; cocaine injection in the preceding four weeks increased from 17% (242/1,456) to 25% (33/130). One in five PWID (22%; 35/188) reported difficulties in accessing HIV and hepatitis testing and one in four (26%; 47/179) reported difficulties in accessing equipment for safer injecting. Conclusions: Our preliminary findings suggest that PWID have experienced negative impacts on health, behaviours and access to essential harm reduction, testing and treatment services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Continued monitoring through surveillance and research is needed to understand the subsequent impact of COVID-19 on blood-borne virus transmission in this population and on health inequalities.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 1117 Public Health and Health Services
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA1190 Toxicology. Poisions
Divisions: Public Health Institute
Publisher: Elsevier
Date Deposited: 21 Jan 2021 10:28
Last Modified: 21 Jan 2021 10:28
DOI or Identification number: 10.1016/j.puhe.2021.01.004
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/14293

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