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Preventing HIV Transmission: The Role of Sterile Needles and Bleach
that the data are ecological trends. Other prevention efforts were occurring in New York City between the two time intervals. Therefore, although the results are consistent with an inference of reduction in risk behaviors following the introduction of a needle exchange program, the study design does not exclude the possibility of contributing or alternate explanations.
In the San Francisco needle exchange program evaluation, Watters (1994) compared frequent needle exchange participants with two comparison groups—injection drug users who used the exchange less frequently and a group who did not use it at all. These researchers found a 47 percent decline (from 66 to 35 percent) in reported sharing behavior among injection drug user study participants between spring 1987 and spring 1992. More refined analyses revealed that frequent needle exchange participants (i.e., used the program more than 25 times in the past year) were less likely to report needle sharing in the past 30 days than study participants who used the needle exchange program less frequently or not at all. In contrast, over the 3-year study period, no change in reported rates of sharing behavior was observed among those not using the program.
In New York City, Paone et al. (1994a) conducted a pre-post analysis that examined the drug-use risk behaviors of 1,752 needle exchange program participants 30 days prior to using the exchange and during their most recent 30 days in the program. Participants reported a two-thirds decline in the proportion of time they injected with previously used needles (12 percent before participating in the needle exchange program, compared with 4 percent in the last 30 days while participating in the program). Similar reductions in renting or buying used needles (73 percent decline) were observed, and similar reductions in the number of participants who reported borrowing used needles were found (59 percent decline). The number of participants who reported using alcohol pads increased from 30 percent before participating in the needle exchange program to 80 percent in the most recent 30 days in the exchange. Although the reduction in high-risk behaviors was based on self-reports of exchange users and no comparison of injection drug users not using the exchange was included in this report, this pattern of reduction in drug-use risk behaviors was found to be relatively stable in recent updates (Des Jarlais et al., 1994b; Des Jarlais et al., 1995; Paone et al., 1994b). These authors also note in their recent updates that minimal changes in sexual risk behaviors were reported. For example, always using a condom with a primary sexual partner increased from 36 percent in the 30 days prior to first using the needle exchange program to 37 percent for the last 30 days while using the program; whereas always using a condom with a casual sexual partner increased from 56 percent in the 30 days prior to first using the exchange program to 60 percent in the last 30 days while using the exchange. However, due to design constraints,