In Minnesota, state legislation, enacted July 1998, provided for voluntary pharmacy sales of syringes/needles without a prescription for an accompanying drug. The goal was to stem HIV transmission among injecting drug users (IDUs) by providing greater access to sterile syringes. We used a pre/post evaluation design to investigate the impact of less restrictive syringe/possession laws on IDUs' HIV-related syringe practices. Independent cross-sectional samples of IDUs were recruited from street sites and a correctional facility immediately before and 1 year after enactment of the laws. Of the 671 IDUs interviewed, 570 (270 prelegislation and 300 postlegislation) had injected at least once in the 30 days before the interview. IDUs were more likely to purchase syringes at pharmacies after enactment of the laws (odds ratio [OR], 2.66; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.83-3.85), yet did not change their behaviors regarding carrying unused syringes (OR, 0.90; 95% CI, 0.63-1.28). After adjusting for speedball injection and criminal history, syringe sharing decreased among IDUs (adjusted OR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.45-1.00) yet syringe reuse remained the same (adjusted OR, 0.67; 95% CI, 0.40-1.11). Safe disposal of syringes did not differ significantly across the sampling periods (adjusted OR, 1.32; 95% CI, 0.84-2.06). Increased access to pharmacy syringes offers a first step at reducing HIV-related syringe practices but must be coupled with strong HIV prevention messages, drug treatment referrals, and safe syringe disposal options.
- Injecting drug users