Syringe possession arrests are associated with receptive syringe sharing in two Mexico-US border cities

Robin A. Pollini, Kimberly C. Brouwer, Remedios M. Lozada, Rebeca Ramos, Michelle F. Cruz, Carlos Magis-Rodriguez, Patricia Case, Scott Burris, Minya Pu, Simon D.W. Frost, Lawrence A. Palinkas, Cari Miller, Steffanie A. Strathdee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Aims: To identify factors associated with receptive syringe sharing among injection drug users (IDUs) and elucidate the association between syringe possession arrests and syringe sharing. Design: Cross-sectional study. Setting: Mexican border cities of Tijuana, Baja California and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua. Participants: IDUs in Tijuana (n = 222) and Ciudad Juarez (n = 206) were recruited using respondent-driven sampling (RDS). IDUs were ≥ 18 years and had injected illicit drugs in the past month. Measurements: An interviewer-administered survey was used to collect quantitative data on socio-demographic, behavioral and contextual characteristics, including self-reported syringe sharing and arrests for syringe possession. Associations with receptive syringe sharing were investigated using logistic regression with RDS adjustment. Findings: Overall, 48% of participants reported ever being arrested for carrying an unused/sterile syringe, even though syringe purchase and possession is legal in Mexico. Arrest for possessing unused/sterile syringes was associated independently with receptive syringe sharing [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) = 2.05; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.26, 3.35], as was injecting in a shooting gallery (AOR = 3.60; 95% CI: 2.21, 5.87), injecting in the street (AOR = 2.05; 95% CI: 1.18, 3.54) and injecting methamphetamine (AOR = 2.77; 95% CI: 1.41, 5.47) or cocaine (AOR = 1.96; 95% CI: 1.15, 3.36). More than half of participants (57%) had been arrested for possessing a used syringe; in a second model, arrest for used syringe possession was also associated independently with receptive sharing (AOR = 2.87; 95% CI: 1.76, 4.69). Conclusions: We documented high levels of syringe-related arrests in two Mexican-US border cities and an independent association between these arrests and risky injection practices. Public health collaborations with law enforcement to modify the risk environment in which drug use occurs are essential to facilitate safer injection practices.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-108
Number of pages8
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Arrests
  • HIV
  • Injection drug use
  • Mexico
  • Needle sharing
  • Police
  • Shooting galleries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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