The Fitpack study

  • Research program:
  • Project status: Completed
  • Start date: January 1995
  • Expected end date: December 1999
  • Completion date: June 1999
  • Funded by: Commonwealth AIDS Research Grant
  • Lead organisation:

Aims: To: (i) access drug injectors with little or no prior contact with drug treatment agencies (ii) describe their characteristics, BBVI risk behaviours and feedback on services and (iii) challenge some stereotypes about citizens who inject drugs. Design: A self-completion questionnaire study. Setting: Questionnaire was given out with ‘Fitpack’ needle packs sold to drug injectors through 193 community pharmacies across Western Australia. Participants. 511 drug injectors with a mean age of 26.2 years. Only 28.7% had prior drug treatment agency contact, 43.4% were women, 44.3% were living with their sexual partner, 41.7% were parents, 46.4% were employed, mostly in full time work. Measurements. Brief anonymous questionnaire designed with input from drug injectors. It requested feedback on the Fitpack scheme, drug use, BBVI risk behaviour, Hepatitis C testing, and demographics. Questionnaires could be returned by free-post or taken to a pharmacy in exchange for a free Fitpack. Findings: In the previous month 61.2% had injected less frequently than daily, 50.8% had injected heroin, 27.7% had used a needle after someone else, 58.5% had shared other injecting equipment. In the previous year 35.6% had shared a needle because they didn’t have enough money to buy a Fitpack. Most respondents wanted to see sterile water (75.7%) and swabs (65.6%) sold with Fitpacks, and 79.7% wanted Fitpacks available in vending machines. The most common problems buying Fitpacks were the negative attitudes of pharmacy staff and unavailability eg. after hours. Conclusions: The study successfully accessed a diverse group of drug injectors not typically seen in agency and peer recruited research. They provided useful feedback about how harm reduction strategies to reduce BBVI transmission among injectors can be improved. However, they also reported higher rates of injecting and sharing than previously found in traditionally recruited samples of injectors which suggests there is no room for complacency.

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