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Predictors of needle exchange program utilization during its implementation and expansion in Tijuana, Mexico.

  • Author(s): Smith, Danielle M;
  • Werb, Dan;
  • Abramovitz, Daniela;
  • Magis-Rodriguez, Carlos;
  • Vera, Alicia;
  • Patterson, Thomas L;
  • Strathdee, Steffanie A;
  • for Proyecto El Cuete
  • et al.

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Until the early 2000s, there was only one needle exchange program (NEP) offered in Mexico. In 2004, the second Mexican NEP opened in Tijuana, but its utilization has not been studied. We studied predictors of initiating NEP during its early expansion in Tijuana, Mexico.


From April 2006 to April 2007, people who inject drugs (PWID) residing in Tijuana who had injected within the last month were recruited using respondent-driven sampling. Weighted Poisson regression incorporating generalized estimating equations was used to identify predictors of initiating NEP, while accounting for correlation between recruiter and recruits.


NEP uptake increased from 20% at baseline to 59% after 6 months. Among a subsample of PWID not accessing NEP at baseline (n = 480), 83% were male and median age was 37 years (Interquartile Range: 32-43). At baseline, 4.4% were HIV-infected and 5.9% had syphilis titers >1:8. In multivariate models, factors associated with NEP initiation (p < .05) were attending shooting galleries (Adjusted Relative Risk [ARR]: 1.54); arrest for track-marks (ARR: 1.38); having a family member that ever used drugs (ARR: 1.37); and having a larger PWID network (ARR: 1.01 per 10 persons). NEP initiation was inversely associated with obtaining syringes at pharmacies (ARR: .56); earning >2500 pesos/month (ARR: .66); and reporting needle sharing (ARR: .71).


Uptake of NEP expansion in Tijuana was vigorous among PWID. We identified a range of factors that influenced the likelihood of NEP initiation, including police interaction. These findings have important implications for the scale-up of NEP in Mexico.

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