An Open Access article published in the Health Behavior and Policy Review Journal.
The full article is available as a PDF download.
Suzan M. Walters, PhD
David W. Seal, PhD, FAAHB
Thomas J. Stopka, PhD, MHS
Megan E. Murphy, BS
Wiley D. Jenkins, PhD, MPH, FACE
People who use drugs (PWUD) face increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, but also elevated risk associated from injection drug use. We describe factors underlying their increased risk and identify mechanisms for reducing or minimizing rates of COVID-19 transmission and other health outcomes.
Our commentary draws upon empirical data, governmental and other reports, and field-based unpublished data from our own studies to inform our conclusion and recommendations.
Co-morbid health conditions (eg, diabetes), structural challenges (eg, homelessness, criminal justice involvement), stigma (eg, social devaluation, discrediting), and syndemic clustering of of overdose, HCV, and HIV among PWUD are exacerbated by COVID-19.
Beyond the many challenges all people face to remain safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic, PWUD face additional barriers to remaining safe not only from COVID-19 but from negative health outcomes associated with their living environments, socioeconomic positions, and injection drug use. Collaborative efforts among governmental agencies, health providers, SSPs, CBOs, and other agencies providing services to PWUD is essential to the development of programs and services to meet the many needs of PWUD, which have been particularly accentuated during the COVID-19 pandemic.