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Open Access COVID-19 and People Who Use Drugs - A Commentary

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This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND licence.

Objective: 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. Methods: Our commentary draws upon empirical data, governmental and other reports, and field-based unpublished data from our own studies to inform our conclusion and recommendations. Results: 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. Conclusions: 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, socio-economic 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.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2020

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  • Health Behavior and Policy Review is a rigorously peer-reviewed scholarly bi-monthly publication that seeks manuscripts on health behavior or policy topics that represent original research, including papers that examine the development, advocacy, implementation, or evaluation of policies around specific health issues. The Review especially welcomes papers that tie together health behavior and policy recommendations. Articles are available through subscription or can be ordered individually from the Health Behavior and Policy Review site.
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