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Harm reduction, nursing, primary care, stigma



  1. Dion, Kimberly PhD, RN, CNE (Clinical Assistant Professor)


Background and purpose: Access to adequate health care in the United States is often hindered by an individual's location, socioeconomic status, and lifestyle. Among those underserved are people who inject drugs (PWID), who are affected by stigma and discrimination. The purpose of this study was to describe the utilization of preventative health care services obtained by PWID.


Methods: A survey querying participants about their utilization of preventative health care services and health education over the past year was administered to PWID at 2 syringe access programs. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the data.


Conclusion: Of the 141 participants surveyed, 60.6% saw a provider within the past year and 62.1% indicated that their provider was aware of their drug use. Data analysis revealed that providers counseled PWID on three of nine drug-related harm reduction items. Only 30% of PWID talked with their provider about five or more items. Mean number of items discussed was significantly different between PWID whose provider was aware of their drug use and PWID whose provider was unaware of drug use (t = 10.7, p < 0.001).


Implications for practice: Results indicated that PWID are not receiving adequate preventative services or harm reduction education from their primary care provider. A need for assessment of substance use, preventative vaccinations, counseling and testing for infectious diseases, and harm reduction education is essential during health care visits. Nurse practitioners and nurses have a role in screening for and educating PWID in a variety of health care settings.