Dealing with Risk: A Multidisciplinary Study of Injecting Drug Use, Hepatitis C and Other Blood Borne Viruses in Australia
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This report presents findings from a multi-disciplinary project on risks for blood-borne viral infection (BBVI) among injecting drug users (IDUs) in two Australian contexts. The project aimed to examine the context of injecting and identify particularly ‘high risk’ groups. Qualitative research was carried out in two locations: Kings Cross, Sydney, and the Fortitude Valley/New Farm area of Brisbane. A series of focus groups with current IDUs were also conducted nationally. The qualitative research was conducted toward the end of a substantial decrease in heroin availability (the ‘heroin drought’), resulting in behaviours such as higher levels of cocaine and other psychostimulant use. This affected some areas (Fortitude Valley/New Farm) more than others (Kings Cross). However, the data presented in this report cannot be seen as an aberration due to this phenomenon, as heroin availability had stabilised in Kings Cross by the time the research was conducted and the Fortitude Valley research focused on amphetamine use, traditionally the dominant drug in that area. Quantitative research was carried out using the national needle and syringe program (NSP) survey. A pilot study of a quality of life (QoL) instrument designed specifically for IDUs was trialled to examine the impact of BBVI on IDUs’ quality of life. The process of interpreting findings was collaborative, with the entire research team involved in building the overall picture. Qualitative and quantitative researchers and health educators worked in a dialogic fashion to collect, analyse and interpret data. The collaborative nature of this project served to focus the research team on ethical and practical issues, thus enhancing the development of research questions and augmenting the validity of findings and recommendations.