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Article

A New Generation of Drug Users in St. Petersburg, Russia? HIV, HCV, and Overdose Risks in a Mixed-Methods Pilot Study of Young Hard Drug Users

Meylakhs P., Friedman S. R., Meylakhs A., Mateu-Gelabert P., Ompad D. C., Alisa A., Dmitrieva A.

Russia has a widespread injection drug use epidemic with high prevalence of HIV and HCV among people who inject drugs (PWID). We conducted a mixed methods study of young (age 18-26) hard drug users in St. Petersburg. Thirty-nine structured and 10 semi-structured interviews were conducted. No HIV cases and two HCV cases were detected among the PWID subsample (n=29).  Amphetamine and other stimulants were common (70%), opioid use was rare and episodic. Consistent condom use was low. No PWID reported syringe-sharing, 51% reported other drug paraphernalia sharing.  Contacts with older (30+) PWID were rare. A new cohort of drug users in St. Petersburg may have emerged, which is much safer in its injection practices compared to previous cohorts. However, risky sexual practices of this new cohort may expose them to the possibility of sexual transmission of HIV and widespread drug paraphernalia sharing to the HCV epidemic.