Home > Sex work, injection drug use, and abscesses: associations in women, but not men.

Wurcel, Alysse G and Burke, Deirdre and Skeer, Margie and Landy, David and Heimer, Robert and Wong, John B and Chui, Kenneth K H and Stopka, Thomas J (2018) Sex work, injection drug use, and abscesses: associations in women, but not men. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 185, pp. 293-297. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2017.12.028.

External website: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC59910...

BACKGROUND: Abscesses commonly occur among people who inject drugs (PWID). However, whether the risks are comparable between males and females, and the impact of sex work on abscess risk is unclear. The goal of this study was to examine the contemporary associations of gender and sex work with the risk of abscesses in PWID.

METHODS: Combining data from two cross-sectional studies conducted in the Greater Boston Area with people at risk for HIV and hepatitis C virus (HCV), we used the following inclusion criteria: age 18-45 years and report of illicit or non-prescription drug injection within the 30 days prior to the survey. Information on demographics, injection-mediated risks, and sexual behaviors was collected using Audio Computer-Assisted Self-Interview Software. Multivariable logistic regressions were used to model associations.

RESULTS: The study sample included 298 people including 30% were female. Females were more likely than men to report sex work (28% vs. 16%, p = .012) and abscess during their lifetime (55% vs. 37% p = .004). Among the females, engaging in sex work increased by >5-fold the odds of reporting abscesses [Adjusted odds ratio 5.42; 95% CI: 1.27, 23.10]. There was no association between sex work and abscesses among men.

DISCUSSION: We found a female-specific association between sex work, injection drug use, and abscesses among PWID. Although the cross-sectional designs precluded causal inferences, longitudinal studies could enhance understanding of gender-associated risks for abscesses and inform the development of harm reduction interventions.

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