28 October 2014
In Denmark, the first standalone supervised injecting facility (SIF) opened in Copenhagen’s Vesterbro neighborhood on October 1, 2012. The purpose of this study was to assess whether use of services provided by the recently opened SIF was associated with changes in injecting behavior and syringe disposal practices among people who inject drugs (PWID). We hypothesized that risk behaviors (e.g., syringe sharing), and unsafe syringe disposal (e.g., dropping used equipment on the ground) had decreased among PWID utilizing the SIF.
Between February and August of 2013, we conducted interviews using a survey (in English and Danish) with forty-one people who reported injecting drugs at the SIF. We used descriptive statistics and McNemar’s test to examine sociodemographic characteristics of the sample, current drugs used, sites of syringe disposal before and after opening of the SIF, and perceived behavior change since using the SIF.
Of the interviewed participants, 90.2% were male and the majority were younger than 40 years old (60.9%). Three-quarters (75.6%) of participants reported reductions in injection risk behaviors since the opening of the SIF, such as injecting in a less rushed manner (63.4%), fewer outdoor injections (56.1%), no longer syringe sharing (53.7%), and cleaning injecting site(s) more often (43.9%). Approximately two-thirds (65.9%) of participants did not feel that their frequency of injecting had changed; five participants (12.2%) reported a decrease in injecting frequency, and only two participants (4.9%) reported an increase in injecting frequency. Twenty-four (58.5%) individuals reported changing their syringe disposal practices since the opening of the SIF; of those, twenty-three (95.8%) reported changing from not always disposing safely to always disposing safely (McNemar’s test p-value < 0.001).
Our findings suggest that use of the Copenhagen SIF is associated with adoption of safer behaviors that reduce harm and promote health among PWID, as well as practices that benefit the Vesterbro neighborhood (i.e., safer syringe disposal). As a public health intervention, Copenhagen’s SIF has successfully reached PWID engaging in risk behavior. To fully characterize the impacts of this and other Danish SIFs, further research should replicate this study with a larger sample size and prospective follow-up.