Social Networks and Safer/Unsafe Sexual and Injection Drug Use Practices among Injection Drug Users (IDUs) in Rural and Urban Atlantic Canada


Investigators: Jackson, L (Principal), Dykeman, M, Gahagan, J & Karabanow, J.

Currently across Atlantic Canada, there are a number of harm reduction options for people who use illicit drugs. Many harm reduction programs are provided in the context of community-based organizations in urban or semi-urban centers, and some outreach services also exist in a number of rural areas. Research indicates that harm reduction programmes (including needle exchange/distribution programs) have been highly successful in reducing risks of the Human Immunodificiency Virus (HIV) and Hepatitis C.

The proposed research has two key objectives: 1) to understand the types of harm reduction policies and practices that currently exist within emergency shelters and emergency departments across Atlantic Canada, as well as challenges to harm reduction in these settings; and, 2) to discuss with key stakeholders the opportunities and strategies for implementing harm reduction policies and practices in emergency shelters and emergency departments.

Urban and rural emergency shelters and emergency departments within each province in Atlantic Canada will be contacted and asked to participate in this study. We will seek to interview one to two participants who can speak to the formal and informal policies within their organization, as well as current practices. Up to 44 interviews will be conducted in total across all four provinces. We will also access relevant organizational documents that refer to formal policies that may structure the type of care/support provided to people who use illicit drugs.

Following an analysis of the interview data and existing organizational policies, a series of workshops with stakeholders within emergency shelters and emergency departments, as well as others with an interest in addictions/harm reduction will be held across Atlantic Canada to discuss the findings, as well as the opportunities and strategies for integrating harm reduction into mainstream services. Reports from each of the workshops will be distributed widely to ensure discussions can be accessed by all interested parties, and potential strategies and ideas for integrating harm reduction into other mainstream services can be utilized by others.

Funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for $320,116 (August 2006 – August 2009).