The Thai HIV/AIDS epidemic at 15 years: sustained needle sharing among southern Thai drug injectors.

Perngmark P, Vanichseni S, Celentano DD.

Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008 Jan 1;92(1-3):183-90. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2007.07.014. Epub 2007 Sep 17.

To explore perceptions and attitudes towards needle sharing among clinic-based injecting drug abusers (IDUs) at a drug-treatment clinic in Hat Yai City, Songkla Province, Southern Thailand. Qualitative methods were used to gather data, including: in-depth interviews with 17 active IDUs and with three nurses, participant observation, review of the IDUs' files, and validation after interview completion to ensure data triangulation. A form of comparative content analysis, including thematic analysis, was used for data analysis. After 15 years of the Thai HIV/AIDS epidemic, most southern Thai IDUs still occasionally engaged in needle sharing although they reported reductions in sharing frequency. Withdrawal symptoms and craving were most commonly cited as compelling reasons to share. Misconceptions about how to determine "healthy" from the "sick" was another key factor underlying sharing. Pooling money for drugs (with subsequent cost-savings) was given priority over purchasing new needles/syringes among disadvantaged IDUs. Receiving HIV voluntary counseling and testing (VCT), however, promotes reduced sharing. Our findings suggest that southern Thai IDUs remain at high risk of acquiring HIV infection, primarily through needle sharing. Harm reduction strategies, such as, providing VCT to all IDUs and promoting needle exchange programs might be beneficial approaches to curbing the rapid spread of HIV.

PMID: 17870252

From MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.