Effect of peer-led outreach activities on injecting risk behavior among male drug users in Haryana, India

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Background: For the past two decades, there has been an enduring HIV epidemic among injecting drug users (IDUs) in India, and the Indian national AIDS control program (NACP) led by the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) has kept IDUs at the forefront along with other key populations, in its efforts to prevent HIV. Given this, the objective of this study is to examine the association between IDUs’ degree of exposure to peer-led education sessions (under NACP) and their needle sharing practices in Haryana, India. Methods: The data for this study were drawn from a program monitoring system for the years 2009–2010 and 2010–2011. The relationship between IDUs’ background characteristics/injecting practices and degree of exposure to the program was assessed using chi-square and Student’s t tests. Generalized estimating equations (GEE) were used to examine changes in needle sharing practices over time by degree of exposure to peer-led education sessions. Further, the analysis was stratified by frequency of injecting drug use. All statistical analyses were conducted using STATA version 11. Results: The proportion of IDUs who shared needles substantially decreased from 2009 to 2011, particularly among those who attended three or more peer-led education sessions (49% vs 11%, p < 0.001) in a month. Further, subgroup analysis by frequency of injecting drugs demonstrates that this decline was significant among IDUs who injected frequently (adjusted odds ratio = 0.6, 95% confidence interval = 0.3–0.9, p = 0.043). Conclusion: The study results indicate that repeated peer-led outreach sessions are more effective than exposure to a single education session. Hence, HIV prevention programs must promote repeated peer contacts with IDUs every month (at least two meetings) in order to promote safe injecting practices and behavior change.