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Geo-spatial analysis of individual-level needle and syringe coverage in Melbourne, Australia.

O'Keefe D, Wilkinson A, Aitken C, Dietze P

  • Journal PloS one

  • Published 14 Dec 2018

  • Volume 13

  • ISSUE 12

  • Pagination e0209280

  • DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0209280


Distance to health services is known to be negatively associated with usage and needle and syringe programs (NSPs) for people who inject drugs (PWID) are no different. Australia has a mixture of NSP modalities (primary or secondary fixed-site NSPs), which may present unique barriers to access. In this study, we explore 1) the effect of distance to NSPs on individual-level needle and syringe coverage, and 2) differences in coverage dependent on NSP modality. Using data from 219 PWID in an ongoing cohort study in Melbourne, Australia, we measured the straight-line distance from participants' residence to their nearest primary or secondary fixed-site NSP. We analysed the relationship between geographical distance and coverage via regression analysis. The median distance to any type of NSP was 1872 metres. Regardless of service type, 52% of participants lived within 2 kms of a fixed-site NSP and 87% lived within 5 kms. We found no association between distance to NSPs and syringe coverage or a significant difference in coverage by nearest service type. Our findings suggest that the number and distribution of NSPs in Melbourne, Australia caters adequately for the population of PWID.