To test the feasibility of delivering a three-session, gender-specific psychosocial group intervention to reduce blood borne viruses (BBV) transmission behaviours among people who inject drugs (PWID).
The PROTECT intervention included skills to improve injecting techniques/vein care, and strategies to avoid risk situations. 99 PWID from needle exchanges and harm reduction services in London, York, Glasgow and Wrexham were randomized to receive the intervention plus a BBV transmission leaflet (n=52) or the leaflet only (n=47). Contingency management was used to encourage intervention attendance.
More participants attended at least one intervention session in London (10/16; 63%) and Wrexham (7/13; 54%) than in Glasgow (3/12; 25%) and York (0/11; 0%). Participants from Glasgow and York reported higher levels of homelessness, injected on a greater number of days and used more needles from a needle exchange in the last month which may have contributed towards lower attendance. 45% (45/99) were followed-up one-month post-intervention. Follow-up was associated with fewer days of injecting in the last month. Compared to those who attended no sessions, a trend towards greater reductions in injecting risk behaviours, increases in withdrawal planning and increased self-efficacy around finding a vein, not sharing equipment, cleaning equipment and talking about safe drug use was reported by those who attended at least one session.
The complex needs of many PWID may have limited engagement of those potentially most at risk of engaging in BBV transmission behaviours (e.g. homeless PWID, more frequent injectors). Alternative intervention delivery methods may achieve greater reach.