Andrey Rylkov Foundation
for Health and Social Justice

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

This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in AIDS and Behavior. The final authenticated version is available online at: 10.1007/s10461-019-02489-6

Authors: Peter Meylakhsa, Samuel R. Friedmanb, Anastasia Meylakhsa, Pedro Mateu-Gelabertb, Danielle C. Ompadc,d, Alisa Alievaa, Alexandra Dmitrievae


a Centre for Health Economics, Management and Policy, National Research University Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg, Russia

b National Development and Research Institutes, Inc., New York, USA

c College of Global Public Health, New York University, New York, USA

d Center for Drug Use and HIV Research , Rory Meyers College of Nursing, New York University, New York , NY , USA.

e Alliance for Public Health, Kyiv, Ukraine

Suggested running head: A new generation of drug users in St. Petersburg, Russia?

Contact person: Peter Meylakhs, 194100 Kantemirovskaya st. 3a, telephone  +7 (812) 644-59-11,

Abstract: (max 150 for AIDS and Behavior)

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 10%. No PWID reported syringe-sharing, 51% reported other drug paraphernalia sharing.  Most (89%) never or rarely communicated with older (30+) opiate users. 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 among this new cohort may expose them to the possibility of sexual transmission of HIV and widespread drug paraphernalia sharing to the HCV epidemic.

Key words (4-5): People who inject drugs (PWID), HIV, Russia, mixed-methods study, young drug users

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