Submission Type

Original Research


Introduction: Syringe service programs (SSPs) reduce HIV and viral hepatitis transmission, as well as the prevalence of improperly disposed needles and needle stick injuries among first responders. Infections associated with injection drug use are rising in rural areas, including Maine, leading to concerns that SSP services are difficult to access for rural residents.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey of 101 participants hospitalized with infections associated with injection drug use at 4 hospitals in Maine was collected over a 15-month period. Descriptive analyses were performed. Statistical analyses were completed using Fisher’s exact tests, Pearson’s chi-squared tests, and Student’s t tests.

Results: Of 101 participants, 66 (65%) lived in urban areas, and 35 (35%) lived rurally. Participants living in rural areas reported less SSP use in the past 3 months (76% urban vs 43% rural). Rural participants also had a higher prevalence of injecting buprenorphine than urban participants (6% urban vs 12% rural). Rural participants were also more likely to obtain needles from pharmacies than urban participants (40% urban vs 71% rural).

Discussion: SSP programs are underrepresented and accessed less in rural areas of Maine. Rural populations of people who inject drugs have unique health characteristics and syringe-use practices.

Conclusions: These findings highlight the need to develop rural SSP programs that address the unique needs of rural populations.



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