Intimate injection partnerships are at elevated risk of high-risk injecting: a multi-level longitudinal study of HCV-serodiscordant injection partnerships in San Francisco, CA.
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It is increasingly recognized that the risk for HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) transmission among people who inject drugs (PWID), such as syringe sharing, occurs in the context of relationships between (at least) two people. Evidence suggests that the risk associated with injection behavior varies with injection partner types.We utilized longitudinal dyad-level data from a study of young PWID from San Francisco (2006 to 2013) to investigate the relationship-level factors influencing high-risk injecting within HCV-serodiscordant injection partners (i.e., individuals who injected together ≥5 times in the prior month). Utilizing data from 70 HCV-serodiscordant injection partnerships, we used generalized linear models to examine relationship-level predictors (i.e., partnership composition, partnership closeness, and partnership dynamics) of: (1) receptive syringe sharing (RSS); and (2) receptive cooker use (RCU), as reported by the HCV-negative injection partner.As reported by the "at-risk" HCV-negative injection partner, receptive syringe sharing (RSS) and receptive cooker use (RCU) were 19% and 33% at enrollment, and 11% and 12% over all visits (total follow-up time 55 person-years) resulting in 13 new HCV-infections (incidence rate: 23.8/100 person-years). Person-level factors, injection partnership composition, and partnership dynamics were not significantly associated with either RSS or RCU. Instead, intimate injection partnerships (those who lived together and were also in a sexual relationship) were independently associated with a 5-times greater risk of both RSS and a 7-times greater risk of RCU when compared to injecting only partnerships.Our findings suggest a positive, and amplified effect of relationship factors on injecting drug risk behaviors among young PWID injection partnerships. The majority of interventions to reduce injection drug use related harms focus on individual-based education to increase drug use knowledge. Our findings support the need to expand harm reduction strategies to relationship-based messaging and interventions.